How does God remember David, His faithful king...His choice...His man?
The epitaph God gave to David...was “...a man after God’s own heart...” It wasn't because David was a mighty warrior...nor was it because he was the young psalm writer of Israel. Acts 13 helps us answer the question. The apostle Paul is speaking to people who know their Jewish history. He was preaching a sermon that would point to the Lord Jesus Christ...in the process he reminds them of their history of how the Israelite's asked for a king and God gave them Saul. Acts 13:22 “And when He had removed him (Saul) He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said: “I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.”
In other words God says about David: “I found David to care about the things I care about!” This is what it means to be a person after God's own heart. Do you want to be a person after God’s own heart?
How does someone "care" about the things that God cares about? The passage of 2 Samuel 6:1-5 sheds some light on it for us from the life of king David.
The place is Jerusalem, and David is now the new king of Israel and is setting his kingdom in order...and his desire admittedly is a good and godly one. He wants to make Jerusalem the capital city and the worship center for all Israel. And in order to do this he knew that he needed to get the Ark of the Covenant back where it belongs.
SOME NECESSARY BACKGROUND: Remember in David’s day...the central place of worship was a place called the TABERNACLE. God had given to Moses the directions on how God’s people were to worship Yahweh and to keep Him central. He had also given instruction on how to handle the Ark of the Covenant. (See Numbers 4:4-15)
The Ark of the Covenant was a sacred piece of furniture, literally a rectangular box covered in gold.. The cover of the ark was called “the mercy seat”...at both ends it had cherubim (angels) facing each other, with wings outstretched over the top.
The PURPOSE of the Ark...was a visible display of God's presence and God's glory. God promised His people that He would meet with His people above the mercy seat. So God’s glory rested wherever the Ark was. It was the holiest place on earth. (God lives between the cherubim Psalm 80:1; 99:1) The King of Israel should have wanted the Ark of God in their midst. But the kicker is that king Saul, David's predecessor had forgotten about it. And as a result, the nation had become lukewarm in their worship of God. This is what happens when we forget God's holy presence.
When we FORGET the presence of the Most Holy God...we too will become lukewarm and even cold in our relationship with Him...we will forget Him, we will forget the things that are important to Him and no longer will they be a priority for us. For example, if we forget God is with us...we will probably stop reading our Bible, and we will probably stop praying. And should we happen to do those two things our faith will run cold.. Prayer becomes optional, reverence becomes irreverence.
So as the new king David knew he needed to put the Ark back in its rightful place. He needed to set it up as God designed it. Why? Because his heart was after God’s heart. 2 Samuel 6 tells us how he brought the Ark back.
In 2 Samuel 6:1-5 David and his men are rejoicing and having a great time. The Ark was finally coming home. Now David being the practical guy knew that in order for the people to worship Yahweh they needed the Ark in Jerusalem. So David sent for the Ark and the quickest and best way was to put the ark on a cart. But then something terrible happens. 2 Samuel 6:6-7 The oxen stumbled and the Ark begins to fall and Uzzah for whatever reason tried to prevent it.
At first it seems unfair on God’s part...but on further consideration this happened for a reason. God had warned in His Word that the Ark must be transported a certain way. And if David had only done his homework he would have known God’s Way. The Levite's were the ones to carry the ark, using the poles that slipped through the ringlets the poles up on the shoulders of the four men. But David didn’t do it that way. He just did what seemed right at the time.
When we don’t know what matters to God we need to find out.
The student who never does his homework gets in trouble. David got in trouble for not doing his homework. It is as if David said: “We need to get the Ark down to Jerusalem...Who cares how we do it! Just get it done!" But GOD CARES! And to prove it to David and as a lesson for us... took Uzzah’s life.
By the way this happens also to us when we think we know what God wants and then we run off and do things our way without consulting God and finding out how He wants us to proceed. He has given to us His Word so that we might know the precepts and the principles He desires us to live by.
God gave detailed instructions to be followed. He meant for them to be followed otherwise He would not have had them recorded in His Word. A popular idiom today is "Don't sweat the small stuff!!" In other words don't worry about the details...just do something. Nothing could be more dangerous to the follower of Jesus Christ. God wants us to live by His Word. It is called OBEDIENCE. John 15 is a great help.
When we begin to care about the things God cares about, we too become a people after God’s own heart. (note: What matters to God should matter to me!)
Look what happens next in v.9-11 David left the Ark in the home of Obed Edom the Gittite. So 3 months pass...David gets told that Obed Edom is having the time of his life. He is being blessed by having the ark of the Lord in his home...he is enjoying the blessing of the presence of God. Stop here and think upon that small part of the story! To have the Ark of the Lord in your presence was to have the very presence of God! And as a result of having the presence of God...there is blessing attached to it.
Where the presence of the Lord is ...there is His blessing...at home, work school and play.
Practicing the presence of God in every part of your life will result in knowing the blessing of God in every part of your life. The presence of God is not just for your Sunday morning routine. It is a 24-7 reality in every part of your life at home, work, shool and play and all point in between.
So you gotta' love what does David does next. He goes and gets the ark and finally brings it to the city of Jerusalem. Now to understand what is happening here we need to turn to a parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 15:1-13.
What must have happened? Quite probably one his advisor's came to him and said “Your majesty, God’s Word, the law... says this is how it must be carried...there are these ringlets and poles and these guys by the name of Levites...they are the only ones who can properly transport the ark. Follow God’s Word O King and you can’t go wrong! And being a man after God’s own heart...David gets it! Note: 1 Chronicles 15:13 The Lord did that because we did not consult/seek Him! This leads us to the fifth principle.
Follow God's Word and You Can't Go Wrong!
It is when we do not follow God’s Word...that we do go wrong. An age old question asked by every generation of believers has been "How can I know what God wants me to do?"
How To Know God’s Will?
1. The Word of God...
3. Advice of Godly advisors...
Delight yourself in Him and His Word and you will not go wrong! Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart." And that is what David finally did. He followed God's Word. Which leads us to the next principle.
When God corrects us...we need to take corrective Action...
When we are a man or a woman after God's own heart we will take the right course of action after a miserable failure. I personally love this part of the story...the fact that David took corrective action...after he had miserably failed...he corrected what was wrong. Too many times too many believers ignore God’s correction. We get angry with Him and we choose to live without Him. Even though God promises forgiveness, cleansing and restoration...He picks us up, cleans us off and sets us straight.
Joy and Freedom is the Result of Obedience!
Upon going to get the Ark once again David and his people celebrated, David danced before the Lord with all his might! There was joy and freedom because God's people obediently followed God's instructions. Jesus told His disciples John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” John would later write 1 John 1:4 “And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” Following God's Word, brings joy and freedom to the believer's heart.
God honors those who honor His Word. That is why we cannot "muck around" with obedience...to be a man/woman after God's own heart...we must READ His Word, FOLLOW His Word and then OBEY His Word. ,do it today! You want to become a man/or woman after God’s heart? It’s not rocket science...pay attention to the things that God considers important.
Ever really wondered what it is that actually stops us from praying? The Bible is very clear that there are times when God doesn't hear our prayer. This should be a great concern for every born again believer. Now there could be more...but here are at least 14 OBSTACLES TO PRAYER:
1. REJECTION OF TRUTH…Proverbs 28:9 One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination." This is the person who hears the truth…he is not ignorant of the law…he knows it…but instead he chooses unbelief and they fail to walk by faith or to pray in faith. Someone has wisely stated: “Stopped ears…stop praying!”
2. PRIDE…James 4:6; 2 Chronicles 7:14 I suppose it would be accurate to say that a lot of what stops usfrom praying is actually personal pride. But what does God say on pride? James 4:6 “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” · God’s Word is clear on this point…PRIDE stops us from prayer. The Lord resists/opposes the proud. The proud are self sufficient, they think they are okay…You and I are no match for God…so we must humble ourselves.
Humble dependency upon God is basically knowing that we need Him every hour. "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
3. HARD-HEARTS…Zechariah 7:8-13 To God’s people (post exile) God spoke through Zechariah…but they refused to hear…they made their hearts as hard as stone. When we refuse to hear, heed and obey God’s Word…i.e. when you or I refuse to apply it to my life…our hearts become as hard as stone. "Nothing gets in man! I don’t want to hear it! I don’t accept it! WARNING: When we harden our hearts the Lord gives us back what we have sown. “…so they called out….and I would not listen says the Lord of hosts.." Beware the hardness of heart…when we refuse to heed God’s Word…
4. LACK OF COMPASSION…Proverbs 21:13 When we don’t care about the situations of others…“Whoever shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard.” We cannot neglect justice and we must show compassion to others less fortunate than ourselves...if we want God to hear our prayer.
5. UNCONFESSED SIN…Isaiah 59:2; Psalm 32 Isaiah 59:2 “Your iniquities have separated you from your God…and your sins have hidden his face from you, so that He will not hear.” Sin separates us from Him and hinders our prayers. If we refuse to give up our sin, how can the Lord honor our prayers? Our life must be one of obedience and service to Him. Psalm 66:18 “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” This teaches us that there is a direct correlation between prayer and purity. “…power in prayer is connected to purity in the heart.”
6. WRONG MOTIVES…James 4:3 “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may
spend it on your pleasures." · Often times our own personal agenda is what we pray about…God is not our servant! Rather we are His servants and we must keep our hearts and motives focused on His will…not our own!
7. UNBELIEF…Hebrews 11:6; Matthew 17:20-21; 21:22 Lack of faith…Unbelief hinders prayer…and when unbelief goes unchecked it will produce uncertainty and distrust of God, the Church and cause us to become skeptics.
8. NOT SERIOUSLY ASKING…James 4:2 Thinking about it is not enough…we must ask…and ask
in faith. Believing about what we are praying for and about.
9. BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS…1 Peter 3:7 “Husbands dwell with them (wives) with understanding giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.” How often does broken relationships with our spouses hinder our prayers? An extended application of this principle points not only to our marriage relationship but all of our relationships, in our homes, workplace as well as in the church.
10. VAIN REPETITION…Matthew 6:7 Many people pray the same things time after time…just going through the motions without really opening their heart to God and or getting through to the heart of God.
11. LACK OF FORGIVENESS…Matthew 6:14-15 We need to cultivate a forgiving spirit, this is one of the greatest problems in churches today. With lack of forgiveness in our hearts for fellow believers, how can God hear us when we ask Him for forgiveness?
12. HYPOCRISY…Luke 18:9-14 In this story the Pharisee, the religious professional felt that he was so much better than the sinner,...as if God could not see his heart. But the tax collector prayed for mercy before God with no pretense and with an obvious awareness that God knows what his heart is like. He went away justified, he prayed honestly with no reliance on self...he was genuine before God in prayer.
13. DOUBLE MINDEDNESS…James 1:5-8 Double mindedness is basically thinking one thing and saying another. Praying doubtfully is asking faithlessly. And God says if we do this we should not expect an answer.
14. IDOLATRY…Ezekiel 14:3 We create our own idols, like prestige, power, leisure, wealth, work and family anything and everything else that we put on the throne of our life, instead of the Lord. We must remember that God will not and does not share His glory with another.
And so we pray with David: “Search my heart O God and make it ever true…” Psalm 139:24 This is why it is so important for us to pray: “Lord…put the searchlight of your Holy Spirit on my heart.” In order that we may maintain a close and clean and intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Ask God today to reveal any of these hindrances to prayer in your life, and repent of them, turn away from them and seek the Lord in prayer today!
On the end of the world...
How crazy is this? Here we are in the full brunt of the Christmas season, and I am writing about the end of the world! Of all things! But something must be said. I must confess I had no idea people were talking about “the end of the world” again. It came across my desk just the other morning when I received an email from a Christian ministry which I follow on Twitter and they had written about the Mayan prediction extensively. Some apparently were also expecting an epic event on 12/12/12.
It was last year when Harold Camping made his own predictions as to the end of the world and many of his followers were making headlines for their conviction that what Harold said would come true. Even many professing believers were asking the same questions: “Should we be concerned?” “Do we need to get ready?” “Is he telling the truth?” And so of course many today, are asking “Does the ancient Mayan calendar speak the truth?”
Even the scientists at NASA wanted to set the record straight. They prepared a video that was supposed to be released December 22, 2012 the day after in order to explain why the earth did not end. But they chose, for whatever reason to release it in advance... “Why the world did not end yesterday” (Science@NASA; www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012.html) But as you watch the video you notice that even their rationale is flawed because it is based upon empiricism, which is basically the belief that if you can’t see it, hear it, smell it or touch it...it is not going to happen.
(a.k.a. The Scientific Method) They base their theory on the observations that there is no planet or super asteroid currently on a collision course with earth and of course the sun always has its solar flares and there has been nothing out of the ordinary to say the earth will end. So therefore, NASA says the earth is not in danger.
But to truly answer these questions regarding the end of the world...we should be concerned wit truth, because truth is what really matters. What man says about the end of the world can easily be ignored. Man is very creative, and very imaginative. The stories that come out of Hollywood and into theatres may make for great entertainment but it is actually what God says in His Word about the coming of the end of the world that should not be ignored. Do we need to get ready? Absolutely. But God has promised hope for every believer who has placed their trust in Jesus Christ as their Saviour.
So the question believers should honestly pursue is...What does the Bible say about the end of the world? This will be a snapshot answer. Too many more details would make for the writing of a book. But make no mistake, God has promised through His Word that this world and the entire universe for that matter has a limited life span. “The heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat, both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” 2 Peter 3:10 This is a fact that is hard for us...(and especially so for our friends in NASA) to humanly imagine when we think of the expanse of the universe, but with God nothing is impossible. (See also: Revelation 21:1)
But before this colossal event happens there are certain things that must occur first before it comes to pass. First of all, there will be a RAPTUREof all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible is very clear that those who have put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins will be taken up (literally: “snatched up”) out of this world in the blink of an eye. And of this day no one knows the day nor do they know the hour. 2 Thessalonians 4:16-18 tells us that “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
When does the rapture take place? The exciting thing is that it could happen in any second! We don’t need any more signs. In fact...it could happen before you finish reading this article. “You need to be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.”(Luke 12:40) “He will come as a thief in the night.” (2 Thessalonians 5:2) By the way, in my social circle I don’t know many thieves, but even if I did...I don’t expect any of them would ever give me prior notice of their intent to break in to my house. Hey believer...if you believe Jesus is coming again, you will choose to be ready. Jesus warned us not to speculate about the “when” question...Matthew 24:36
After the rapture of believers there must be seven years of what is known as the “Great Tribulation”. It is during this time period that unbelievable horrors will take place upon the earth. You can read about this devastation in the book of Revelation. At the end of this unimaginable, horrific period known as the Tribulation, Jesus Christ Himself will literally, physically return to earth and He will set up His own righteous government and He will reign for one thousand years. (See:Revelation 19:11-20:6) This is
known as the “Millennial kingdom”. (See also Habakkuk 2:14; Isaiah 2:4)
After the millennial kingdom, literally, all hell will break loose, but then there will be divine judgment when Jesus Christ will completely destroy His enemies, He will vindicate His name, He will reveal His glory and His majesty and He will finally finish off His enemy Satan. (Revelation 20:7-10) Then will come the “new heaven and the new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away...” and God will be with His people for eternity. (See: Revelation 21)
So how should you and I live in light of this? As Peter writes, in 2 Peter 3:12-13 there is no need for believers who have put their trust in Jesus to be afraid or even worried for that matter. Instead, we are to be holy and godly and we are to be looking for these things, anticipating them and even hastening them. As believers we have everything to hope for and nothing to fear from our Father who loves us. “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.”
This Christmas season remember that Jesus Christ came the first time so that you can have your sins forgiven and your hope for eternity. But know this as well He will come again and this time He will come not as a baby wrapped in cuddly clothes...but instead He is coming as the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Conqueror. And we need to be ready for Him. Do you know Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord? You can have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1
For an explanation how you can have peace with God through the Lord Jesus, please go to the drop down link on this website:"How to know God".
The Tragedy of Spiritual Blindness...
Recently, I was chatting with my kids what it would be like to be blind, not able to see. The inability to see the beauty of creation and the faces of those we love. One of my kids noted that it would probably be preferable if someone was born blind, rather than if they went blind. I doubt anyone would ask to be blind. I think most would agree that blindness is especially tragic, whether it is a progressive deterioration or being blind from birth.
But what is even more tragic to the human condition is that of spiritual blindness. Spiritual blindness is the willful inability to see the truth of God and the need of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The world we live in today stresses individual autonomy. They say, “Hey! My life is good...I don’t need God.”In reality they do not see themselves as sinners and so they are blind to their need of a Saviour. Sometimes this can be an intellectual, skeptical ignorance, questioning and maybe even possibly knowing the truth but still stubbornly refusing to accept it. Other times it is simply just seeing Jesus as irrelevant and a “non-essential” for one’s life. Whatever the cause of spiritual blindness, it has eternal consequences.
The Bible describes this blindness as living in the darkness, being separated from God because of ignorance: “They are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against Him. They have no sense of shame...” (Ephesians 4:18)
I love the story in John 9 because Jesus Christ came to give sight to the blind...even when they may not fully understand it all. This passage tells how Jesus healed a man who had been born blind. He had never seen the face of his parents or the people passing by. And right away after Jesus had done the impossible, the religious professionals, who should have been ecstatic at such a miracle still refused to believe that it was Jesus who had healed the man’s eyesight. The man who once was blind didn’t even know who it was who healed his blindness. But once he knew he believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and he worshipped Christ.
Today, many pseudo-intellectuals will quickly dismiss Jesus Christ and His claims. They are incurably blind. Many may study the sciences and the most complex philosophies of the world...and yet they still reject the saving Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul describes it this way,“If the Good News (i.e. the Gospel) we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)
Here is the Good News...Jesus Christ, the Son of God came to this world as “the Light” and he shines in the darkness. And so when anyone simply turns to Him in faith, knowing they are a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness, the blindness is lifted, it is completely taken away. One more thing, light will always overpower the darkness. Something to think about!
YOUR HEART MATTERS
Finally, the time has arrived. You have just sat down with your personal physician and together you have settled on a prescribed program for improved physical health. Your new physical fitness goals include getting up at the crack of dawn four or five days per week and faithfully doing your cardio-pumping exercises. You may begin with those muscle-stretching, bone-crunching calisthenics, which you then follow up by running a couple of grueling miles. And just when you thought you would be done the push-ups and the sit-ups await you. But you also examine your diet and the evidence is there. The juicy, mouth watering, cheese-y hamburgers and fries and gravy just don’t make the healthy grade any longer. So you trim the fat from your diet and you monitor your cholesterol intake and add more fruit and fiber to your everyday meals. You endure all of this sweat, pain and sacrifice in order to help your heart keep healthy and strong.
We will do whatever we can to maintain a healthy heart. It is evident how we take this seriously today. The many magazines, web-sites and apps for our mobile devices that promote healthy living for healthy hearts indicate the need and the desire of many to keep their heart in shape. This is also seen in the number of people who, at the start of a New Year, will make the resolution to “keep fit”.
The Bible tells us a great deal about the heart. For example, the Bible instructs us to “keep
your heart with all diligence…” (Proverbs 4:23). The heart is where God’s Word is cherished. (Psalm 119:11) However, the heart that the Bible is talking about is not the organ that keeps your oxygenated blood pumping to the extremities of your body so you live and move. But rather it is a spiritual heart. It is a heart that only God can see and know. It is a heart that directs our thoughts and our actions. What can happen in many people’s lives is that they allow their spiritual hearts to become hard with the spiritually unhealthy habits which is called sin or they allow their heart to turn to mush because they become so pre-occupied with day to day worries and then they lose perspective. Instead of looking to God and believing His promises they focus on their immediate, temporal situation. The Bible is easily forgotten on the dusty shelf where it was last placed and prayers become few and far between. These are just a few symptoms of a poor spiritual “heart condition”. But your heart matters to God.
There is a song in the Bible written by a man who was known as “a man after God’s own heart”.
His name is David. In this particular song David acknowledges that God knows all there is to know about
your heart. He knows its strengths and its weaknesses and its quick tendency to lose perspective in life. This same David has also written another psalm asking God to “Create in me a clean heart, O God…” (Psalm 51:10)
It really does make perfect sense to take care of your body and your physical heart. It can really improve the quality of your life. But what makes even greater sense is the taking care of your spiritual heart. It is this heart that matters to God as you walk in this life. Someone in recent years has aptly stated: “To keep spiritually fit…keep walking with God.”
To keep walking with God we must first give him our heart. Then He is the One who strengthens it. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26) One final word is found in Proverbs 4:23 "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life."
It’ s not their fault!!
Reading the news can be very depressing especially when all you read about are the eye catching headlines of questionable politics, international conflicts, and domestic criminal behaviours. At which point we might shake our heads and often think or say to ourselves “What is our world coming to?” We read with intrigue about the crimes, we read about the criminals and we read sympathetically about the victims. But all too often we forget that there is even another side to the stories we hear and read about. There are other people in the background who are directly affected by the crime and who we read nothing about...the children of the perpetrators.
Have you ever wondered what happens when a parent of a child goes to jail? Without fail, when a parent goes to jail the entire family suffers! It is probably needless to say but the care giving spouses are then left to handle the pressures of life all alone, taking care of the bills, the groceries, the rent, the jobs, the teachers and the schools you name it! The children, if they are still in the picture, must go without the presence of the incarcerated parent and the attention of the care giving parent.
Research studies show that children of incarcerated parents are more likely to end up in prison themselves. The Elizabeth Fry Society recently noted that 33% of incarcerated individuals had a parent who was also incarcerated when they were children. And 59% had another family member incarcerated. (Gabel & Johnston 1995) So how can we help break the cycle that sees children repeating the behaviours that they see their parents doing?
I am forced to admit that I cannot find the number of children in Canada who presently have an incarcerated parent...what I do know is that every month chaplains in the Canadian prison system are sitting down and speaking to young fathers and mothers of one or more children. By the way, if we can compare our own situation to that of south of the border...the U.S. has statistics that reveal that “more than 1.7 million children (under the age of 18) in America have a parent in prison.”
Through no fault of their own, these children are also forced to serve "hard time" while they are separated from their parents, regardless if it is their mom and/or their dad. The key point being IT’S NOT THEIR FAULT! Yet they are forced to pay the price.
And as a result, you can almost guess what happens next...these children will often have behavior and performance problems at school. Not only academically they will also experience the social stigma and shame of having a parent in prison. And therefore, they stand a good chance to repeating the behaviours of their parents.
So why are children of incarcerated parents a subject for an article? Prison Fellowship, Canada, an organization committed to working with those impacted by crime, both those who commit a crime and those are affected by crime, report that it is important for children to keep connected with their parents who are incarcerated. Studies show that keeping children connected to their parent, though incarcerated, lowers the likelihood of their parent’s criminal relapse. Not only is there a benefit for the parent but it also encourages a “parent-child bonding that can ease the sadness a child feels from the separation...and it improves the likelihood of breaking the intergenerational cycle of crime.”
So, on that basis, this Christmas, in partnership with Prison Fellowship, Canada, Fellowship Baptist Church, Burford and the Burford Community Food Bank will be participating in the “Angel Tree” program. You may wonder what “Angel Tree” all about?
Prison Fellowship, Canada works with prison chaplain’s across the country who agree to their facility participating in the “Angel Tree” program. Chaplains report that many inmates deeply desire for their
children not to repeat what they have done. So, these inmates, sincerely wanting to break the cycle, will apply to be involved with “Angel Tree”. The Prison chaplains will then review applications for the program from inmates who request that their children participate and they check to make sure there are no other restrictions prohibiting an inmates’ participation.
This is where the Burford Community Food Bank comes in. The Burford Food Bank has been given the very simple opportunity to provide Christmas gifts for a few of these children of incarcerated parents and deliver them on behalf of the parents in prison. The gift does not have our name on it... because it really comes from the parent.
So imagine Christmas morning when that child who thinks that they have been forgotten by their parent actually gets a gift with their parent’s name on it? It may seem like a small thing in our eyes...but for the parent and for the child it goes a long way for them to see the love of a caring community like Burford.
This is just a small taste of the love of Christ that a child can experience in the coming season of Christmas...celebrating the greatest Gift ever given. Do you have thoughts on this issue? I want to hear them. Please feel free to contact me (Pastor David) at www.fellowshipburford.weebly.com .
Learning to think about God...
Our mind is continually active, running constantly...even while sleeping apparently the mind is active, though thankfully it is in a more relaxed state. Throughout the day, we are up to our ears in busy-ness... daily activity, business, hard work, deadlines, responsibilities, decisions, choices, children...what to have for dinner and the list goes on. Then there are those moments of ease when we might catch ourselves using our imaginations...maybe even day dreaming and/or reminiscing...the mind is in a relentless state of activity.
So in all this busyness of daily life, what is the follower of Jesus to do? One part of the answer is to find those moments like Jesus did when He went away to be by Himself and spent time with His Father. But what can we do when the busyness does not relent? This is where learning to think about God becomes an essential tool every follower of Jesus.
This is meditation” ...try and forget about the baldheaded mystic sitting in some weird contorting position and hmmming himself silly, trying to empty his thoughts. Biblical meditation is learning to think about God in the busy-ness of life.
In Philippians 4:8 the apostle Paul tells us what to spend our time thinking about. “Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if there is anything excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” Look at the statements he makes:
Think about what is true...for followers of Jesus truth is embodied in Jesus Himself and in His Word. Therefore, if we are to think about the truth...we should spend time thinking about Him and His Word. Think about what Jesus said and think about what Jesus did. The issue of worry enters here, because a lot of what we worry about is actually not true. Satan is a liar and he is the father of lies and he wants to corrupt our
minds with things that are false. And whenever we believe one of his lies he takes over. We are bombarded with so much that is false. Every day there are slurs and slams against what I believe and the things that I hold dear. So as I read my Bible I must counter the untruths I face daily with the truth of God’s Word. I need to ask the Holy Spirit to control my min though truth John 17:17; 1 John 5:6 The promise stands... and deserves to be proven that He will keep in perfect peace the one whose mind is stayed on Him (Isaiah 26:3).
Think about what is noble and right... Watching the news every night we are confronted with violence, lawless chaos and mayhem. We need to be very careful because all of this around us can colour our thinking, our attitudes and even our own desires. How do we think about what is noble and right? Another translation puts it
“whatever is worthy of respect and right.” We can start by filling our minds with God’s Word. At the end of this post I will post five practical things you can do to help with this. By the way, this is not “burying our heads in the sand” and pretending the displeasant things of life are not true...but rather it is a choice that we make...not to dwell on those things that are not worthy of respect and right. Let what is noble and right control our
Think about what is pure...Guard your heart from evil and lust. We are bombarded 24-7 with pornography and we live in a society that is based upon lustful desire. We have it all at the click of the finger, in every media technology. Try not to open those sites you do not know anything about. If you accidentally open up something...get out of it quickly. Run like Joseph away from the temptation. (Note: There are effective filters for computers...especially in your home. BSECURE.com and CovenantEyes.com )
Guard the door of your hearts.
Think about what is lovely and admirable...This deals mainly with our relationships with other people. Look for the good in them. Don’t spend time thinking about their bad habits or what they have done that may have been offensive to you. This causes us to become cynical and critical...and as a result we become miserable...(Hey those almost rhyme!) Guard your lips and pray for the people that may irritate you and may even provoke you.
Think about what is excellent and praiseworthy...What does this look like? This is thinking about the characteristics of God...who, by the way, is totally excellent and He is praiseworthy. Reflect on His goodness, His greatness, His beauty and His majesty...guaranteed you will find this to be overwhelming. Point your mind and your heart to the excellence and praise worthiness of God Himself.
Think, think, think...use the brain God gave you. So how can we think about God in the hectic, busy mayhem of our life? Here are five practical steps...
1. As you read your Bible...stop and reflect on what you have just read...try underlining verbs and circle the nouns... Take a sticky tab or a journal and write your thoughts down beside that verse. Then think about them and pray about them as they apply to your life. Scripture is key to our thinking. (Check out Psalm 19:7-9) Make no mistake if you fill your mind with God’s Word you will have a built-in EARLY DETECTION WARNING SYSTEM...a radar for detecting wrong thoughts.
2. Memorize key Scriptures...and review them during the day...even while you are on the construction site, at your desk or driving your car...or at your locker at school. Write the verse down on an index card and carry it in you in your back pocket.
3. When you are out for a walk in the beautiful fall colours look at creation and think
about how it was God who made them all. Are you surrounded by people at work or at school? Give this a try...look at each face today and remind yourself that God made that face that person unique. (Even if they have a nose ring or two.)
4. Remember, reminisce about how and when God has led you in your life and learn to be thankful for all of the ups and downs of your journey with Christ. Deuteronomy
8:2 “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands.”
5. Bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians
Psalm 143:5 “I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what Your hands have done.”
“Sow a thought...reap an action.
Sow an action, reap a habit.
Sow a habit...reap a character.
Sow a character and reap a destiny.”Warren Wiersbe
I have to admit I had a tough day yesterday. I had two engagments with two separate organizations that I minister through as a volunteer chaplain. In both situations I was surrounded and confronted by a dying culture that denied my message. In one situation, people were physically dying and desperate for a message of hope. I shared with them the Lord Jesus and the hope He only can provide. In the second situation being one guest of many in an afternoon, I honestly left heart broken and even angry because the message of Jesus was rejected and even ridiculed by men who were spiritually dying. Let me tell you...right then and there I really wanted to react rather than respond...but thankfully God kept my mouth shut.
So what should our response (i.e. not reaction) be to a culture that does not believe they are dying without Christ, or who mock the One who died for them? In 1 Peter 2:17 we read "Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God.Honour the king." Four commands for a believer to obey. Each of them go against our natural human instinct to "fight or flight". Each of the four commands are inherently difficult. But because they are written in the Word of God...we know them to be the will of God. Therefore, I must obey them. Think about each one for a moment:
HONOUR ALL MEN... This could be translated "Respect everyone..." Every day as a believer you are surrounded by a culture that rejects your Lord and Saviour...and yet God says to "respect everyone". To do this...is a continuous, concious choice. It requires that we continuallly choose to regard sinful men with honor and dignity. Paul adds in Philippians 2:3 to "esteem others better than yourselves." Ouch! Make it your prayer today to respect everyone you meet including those who reject you on the basis of your message and Who you live for.
LOVE THE BRETHREN...I am growing to love this word "brotherhood" more and more as I study it again and again. The love is the same "agape" that describes God's love for sinful man...a love that is unselfish, unconditional, it sacrifices, and it is an undeserved love...and because I have received this from Him I should extend it to my brothers and sisters in Christ...the verb here agains is a continuous habitual practice. Choose today to love your brothers and sisters in Christ Christ loves the Church.
FEAR GOD...Ultimately God is looking at the heart. He knows full well if you and I fear Him or not. Solomon wrote "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." Proverbs 1:7 This is a lifestle choice that is marked by a reverential fear of God. Choose to fear God rather than man. "Do not be wise in your own eyes...fear the Lord, and depart from evil." (Proverbs 3:7)
HONOUR THE KING... This last point is a struggle for many. We recognize God as the ultimate King but it is God who has put in place the authority on this earth of human government...be it the police officer on his beat or the ministry of corrections or the ministry of health...or the Prime Minister himself. And though they may not agree with me, I still must honour them and obey them as long as what they ask of me does not contend with what God requires of me. Then I must choose to obey the Lord alone. (Please read 1 Peter 2:1-14 for more details) But make no mistake...God does desire for you and I to honour the authorities that He has put in place.
Let me conclude with 1 Peter 2:12 "Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbours. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behaviour, and they will give honour to God when He judges the world."
Every church is known by something. Reach into the recesses of your memory to churches you have been involved with...No doubt there will be something that stands out in your memory of what that church was like. Of course different situations, along with different times bring back different memories.
The church of the Thessalonians was no different. They held a very special place in the mind and the memory of Paul, Silas and Timothy. Not just them but the Thessalonians were known throughout the world, not only in Macedonia but also in Achaia. They were considered to be a “model church” to other cities where the Gospel was being preached and churches established. Let your eye scan down to v.7-8.They were known by others.
There was a lot about this church that Paul had reason to give thanks for.
They were a young church...having a great impact on their world…even though experiencing hardship…difficulty…testing for these young believers…God was doing a great work in them and through them.
In fact, in Acts 17:6when the Gospel was preached and the church was planted the
accusation made against the church: “These who have turned the world upside
down have come here too.”
What can we learn from this church that lived and served almost 2000 years
ago? Because we want to impact our world, our generation for Jesus Christ.
God alone is the One who works in us and through us. God alone is the One who begins the work in us and God alone who finishes the work in and through us. When Christians realize their complete and utter dependence on God and keep this in clear focus…then and only then are we able to move forward on to greater spiritual progress.
There are three reasons that Paul provides
for us…three characteristics that this church was known for. And he notes them
Their Work Springing from Faith! Their Labour ...Prompted by Love! Their Endurance... Inspired by Hope!
1. WORK SPRINGING FROM FAITH!
Note this is not SALVATION by works. Paul is not referring to what these Thessalonians have done in order to be saved…but rather…it is what they have done because they have already been saved. It is the work of faith…work that comes out of (arises from…springs from) their faith.
Paul heard about their work of faith…how out of their faith sprang works that
point to an inward change an inward reality, and an inward transformation. And
he was thankful for their “work of faith”.
It is an absolute essential for the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ…that if you have faith in Him, in His work upon the cross of Calvary to pay for your sin, and believing that He rose again from the grave…that springing
from that faith...there will be WORKS i.e. fruit of righteousness. Your works spring from your faith.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE WORKS SPRINGING FROM FAITH? “FRUITS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS”?
Leave sin behind...in 1:9 the Thessalonians left the worship of idols. Because of their faith in Jesus Christ they were leaving the popular, cultic, cultural, state religion of Roman Imperialism, they no longer worshipped at the throne of Caesar, they left their
idols (v.10) and chose to serve the living and true God...i.e. follow Jesus Christ.
Serve God...with godly fear...Hebrew 11:7 “Noah warned of things not seen moved with godly fear...”
Speak for God...these Thessalonians “...sounded forth the word of the Lord...” they were a people who shared the word of the Lord in word and deed...they shared their new found faith with those around them.
2. LABOR PROMPTED BY LOVE...
The Thessalonians were also known for their “…labor of love”(I.e. Labor that is
PROMPTED by Love). The Greek word for “labour” is “kopon”. This word refers to “...an intense, arduous, wearying toil involving sweat and fatigue…usually coupled with
So Paul in effect was saying: “When we remember you…we remember your labour, your sweat, fatigue, you are a weary people…burned out because of your passionate love for people...all for the cause of Jesus Christ… and when we experience what we are experiencing in Corinth we are encouraged…when we think of your passion, the love and the cost of your love.
This love…is agape…unconditional, sacrificial, wearying, toilsome...the same love that God shows to you and me. The same love that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. That is “Love so amazing so divine....demands my soul, my life, my all…”
Bring this kind of "labour of love" into your everyday North American marriage...imagine the testimony of a Christian marriage...even when love gets difficult it still persists.
Bring this labour of love to the school hallway students love and acceptance of all showing your peers unconditional acceptance. It is hard, toilsome, sometimes misinterpreted, misunderstood, and often rejected...
“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John 4:8
You want an impact...let the love of God impact you...think upon its greatness...you will have the passion the conviction to love God and others.
3. ENDURANCE ...INSPIRED BY HOPE
One more thing the Thessalonians were known for by Paul and his associates ENDURANCE INSPIRED BY HOPE. This is not a passive quiet resignation…“Que sera, sera...whatever will be will be…the futures not ours to see...”
One commentary put it like this... “This is an active, aggressive constancy in the face of extreme difficulty”…i.e. because all was not going well, there was opposition, there were confusions, there were perils and there were challenges and there were difficulties for this young church. But they had "stick-to-it-iveness" that was inspired by tehir hope in teh coming Lord Jesus. The ultimate reason to persevere, to endure the hard stuff.
You are up and active and you are constant in the face of difficulty.
Know the promises...stand on them...know the reality of God with us...in the dreary blind alleys and around the next corner where the future is unseen. Endurance is only possible when we have hope in Jesus Christ and His imminent return.
Do you want to turn the world upside down like the Thessalonians? Maybe someday somoene will write/say of you: "When I think of you...I think of a faith that functions...I think of a love that labors...and I think of a hope that hangs on."
Have a great week!
Positioning is critical. It may be a bit of a stretch but, when playing a team sport, a player must know the position they play. Knowing your position helps you to know your role on the team and your responsibility for knowing what to do.
It is an important detail for the apostle Paul to help the Thessalonian church, as well as all the other churches he wrote to to know their position before God. What does it mean for a church, like the Thessalonian church, to be “...in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”1 Thessalonians 1:1?
We mentioned on Sunday that as believers in the Lord Jesus we are “in Him”. We have life in Jesus Christ. Paul wrote in Acts 17:27-28 that “...in Him we live, and move, and have our being.” Now, remember who He is. He is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator of all things and the One who is upholding all things with His power. (See: Hebrews 1:2-3) That means that everything, every detail of our lives is right now being sustained by Him...every heart beat, every breath, every cell in our the system of our body is being continually sustained by Him, every molecule in the universe is being sustained and held together by the One who spoke it into existence.
If, for some reason He were to take away His sustaining power...everything about life would cease. We exist only because of His grace...that goes for every human being in this world, whether they believe in Him or not. And it also applies to every other part of this world and universe. He sustains all things by the word of His power.
So we need Jesus. We need to be found in Him. 1 John 5:12 says "He that has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son does not have life." We need to put our faith in His sacrificial death and His resurrection life. He is the One who rose from the dead, He conquered sin, death and the grave. John 5:21 tells us "For as the Father raised the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will."
One more thing to add to this position...is that when we are in Christ there is no condemnation. Romans 8:1 "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus..." As a believer you stand in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus...you are no longer condemned. "...having been justified by faith...we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 5:2 This gives a believer ASSURANCE.
The apostle Paul sums it up in Colossians 3:3-4 "For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory."
Jesus Christ is our life.
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