“WHEN GOD CHANGES DIRECTIONS”

Please look below for a note from your blog host, Frank Becker.

WHEN GOD CHANGES DIRECTIONS” (Nehemiah 1-2)

FOUNDATION FUND INTRODUCTION

First Baptist Church, Earlville, New York, Rev. Jeremy B. Stopford, Pastor

TODAY’S “SPECIAL”: “The Sin”

Two elderly, excited Southern women were sitting together in the front pew of a church listening to a fiery preacher.

When this preacher condemned the sin of stealing, these two ladies cried out at the tops of their lungs, “AMEN, BROTHER!”

When the preacher condemned the sin of lust, they yelled again, “PREACH IT, REVEREND!”

And when the preacher condemned the sin of lying, they jumped to their feet and screamed, “RIGHT ON, BROTHER! TELL IT LIKE IT IS… AMEN!”

But when the preacher condemned the sin of gossip, the two got very quiet.

One turned to the other and said, “He’s quit preaching and now he’s meddlin’.”

CONCLUSION

We are going to start with the “conclusion” of the message first! Look at Nehemiah 2:18. Note the mantra, the shout, the united voice of the people: “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.

Let” – a purposeful statement, more than just asking permission. The people of Jerusalem were saying that they understood their purpose, their mission, the goal of the work, even though they had no idea what was to happen (as seen in the next 11 or so chapters!).

Us” – a united statement. They were NOT professionals. They were the people of Jerusalem who had a desire to be secure in their homes. The wall that had been destroyed by the enemies of their faith needed to be rebuilt. And the people determined that they each would do what each could do.

Start” – note they didn’t say “finish”, or “let’s get it done.” You cannot have a faith project without a beginning. This project had a start: and the start was their faith statement. Let’s start!

Rebuilding” – they may not have understood what all was involved in this work. They certainly knew that the wall that surrounded the city of Jerusalem was in ruins. Thus the protection for their city was gone. Even though the temple had been rebuilt under the ministry of Ezra, there was no God-ordained protection. They needed to rebuild.

Finally, “they began this good work.” The work had a beginning. They did not all do construction. Some prayed. Some gave supplies. But all came under the heading “they began”. And note that the work is called a “good” work. Perhaps not a great work. But it was indeed a necessary work. Years later, perhaps no one will remember the names of those who “began a good work”. They won’t know who did the construction. They may not know who gave. They may not know who prayed. But they certainly will see the evidence. The wall is rebuilt. The city is still secure.

The Foundation of the church is laid again. And the people of Earlville are worshiping without fear that the building is going to collapse. So NOW let’s find out how they got to this conclusion!

Prayer

# 1 IT TAKES A SURRENDERED HEART (Nehemiah 1)

Look at the last statement of Nehemiah 1:11: “I was the king’s cupbearer.” In a nutshell, we have just learned all about Nehemiah’s life. The land of Judah was in captivity in Babylon. Why? Because they refused to recognize in their daily and political lives that God alone was worthy of their trust and praise. They literally set themselves first. The Lord told Jeremiah that the people would be in captivity for 70 years. They were. The 70 years are over. Some have gone back to Jerusalem. Many liked their lives in Babylon, which represents the world system. They liked it. They were secure, even though it was impossible in the world system to love the Lord with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength.

Nehemiah worked for King Artaxerxes, the king of Persia, the nation which now ruled Babylon. (We can read Daniel 5 to get the full picture of the Persians takeover of Babylon!).

But his work is identified: he was the king’s cupbearer. Note that it did not say, “he was the king’s right hand man.” It did not say, as with Joseph, “the king entrusted everything to Nehemiah”. No, but the king did entrust his life to Nehemiah. The king’s “cupbearer” was more than just the butler. He was not the one who set up the supper table every time the king wanted to eat. No, no!

You see, the king had many enemies. Some were real. Many were in his mind – his fears that, like those before him, someone would come along and takeover the Persian rule of the world! (by the way, they would!). So he hired – in this case, commanded one of the Jewish exiles – to be his “cupbearer”. What did the cupbearer do? He tasted the king’s food. He drank the king’s wine. He sipped the king’s water? Why? To make sure it wasn’t tainted with poison from an enemy of the king! If when he tasted, he remained alive, the king knew he, too, could partake of a full meal. If, however, he died, well, then, HELLO!, the king would not partake of the meal.

Nehemiah’s job was a life or death position.

But he was surrendered to a higher King. He was doing as Paul would say in the New Testament, “obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Serve whole-heartedly as if you were serving the Lord, not men.” (Eph. 6:5,7). Nehemiah had a surrendered heart.

The point is this: As a reading of the book of Nehemiah will show, Nehemiah wasn’t a great man in himself. He wasn’t a politician. But he was a servant of the Lord who was willing to do his job as unto the Lord Jesus. He was where God wanted him to be – even in the king’s work. Artaxerxes thought Nehemiah was serving him, but in reality he was serving the King of kings, the Lord Himself.

Before we even see a people who say, “let us start rebuilding”, the work needs people who say, “I am surrendered by both my heart and my life to the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings. Am I? Are you? Are we?

# 2 IT TAKES A PRAYERFUL HEART (Nehemiah 2)

But the book of Nehemiah is more than just a “feel good” story about one man, surrendered to the Lord, who did great things. It is a book about his heart.

Last week we did a “wabbit”, er, “rabbit trail” on what lessons the Savior taught at the lake. Today, let’s do a quick rabbit trail on what made Nehemiah a giant of the faith:

1:4-5a. Nehemiah hears from his brothers what the conditions of life are like in Jerusalem.

He mourns with them. He weeps with them. He is one with their hurt. And then, and then? Note the words which will separate Nehemiah from just another leader: “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, Who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and obey His commands, et Your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel.” (vs. 5b-6a). He did what? He prayed! This project wasn’t his alone. It was prompted by the Lord Himself. Nehemiah became a great servant of the Lord in the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem because FIRST of all, He was a humble servant in prayer. Remember, we’re on a rabbit trail.

2:1-4a. Nehemiah prayed, for 4 months. And he still did his job faithfully. But by the fourth month, the king knew by Nehemiah’s demeanor that something was wrong. He shares with the king the tremendous burden and need in Jerusalem.

And then the king asked, “what is it you want?”. Nehemiah could have begun a huge list of what he needed in order to get the job done. Sound familiar? We need MONEY! We need SUPPLIES! We need WILLING WORKERS! This project is bigger than WE ARE!

But he didn’t. “Then I prayed to the God of heaven…” That’s it. The verse doesn’t say WHAT he prayed. It simply says he DID pray, perhaps committing everything to the Lord that was about to happen. He prayed!

4:1-3. Whenever there is a good work, there is opposition to the work. Sometimes the opposition comes from outside the camp. Sometimes, as Nehemiah will find out, it comes from within – discouragement, “we can’t do this anymore; let’s go back to Babylon where we enjoyed the pleasures of that kingdom” (yet without the true King on display).

What did Nehemiah do? V. 4, “Hear us, O our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads”! Wow! What faith! There is little pause between the time of their insults and the time of his prayer. He didn’t go back to his room to pray. He didn’t sulk. He prayed instantly. And as a result, he encourages us to do the same.

There are many more instances in Nehemiah where he prayed, but let’s look at the last: chapter 13. You would think by this time he would have settled down! The walls are built. The people are secure. Worship with joy has been restored. But the opposition continues, both without and within. So what does Nehemiah do? “That’s it, I’ve had it. I’ve done all I can!”. No, he did what? He prayed. V. 14, “Remember me for this, O my God.” V. 22: “Remember me for this also, O my God.” V. 29: “Remember them, O my God, because they defiled the priestly office.” And the last verse of the book, v. 31: “Remember me with favor, O my God.”

It takes the prayerful hearts of the people of God for a project to be a success. So, how are you doing in prayer? Have you established a prayerful heart? Have we established as a church prayerful hearts? A long-time missionary friend of mine wrote many years ago, “nothing of eternal value can ever be accomplished without prayer.”

Oh we can give. We can work. We can give our inputs. But have we shown a pattern of prayer before the King of kings Himself?

INTRODUCTION

This is not the message I’ve been preparing all week. I’ve been working on continuing our series in Mark, and for today Chapter 7. I encourage you to read Mark 7 for the 2nd Sunday in September.

For a number of people this was a most interesting week here at First Baptist. I am willing to wager – although I’m not a betting man – that each one of them could honestly say that what they ended up doing this week was not what they had planned at the beginning of the week, much less at the beginning of each day. Yet one by one their plans changed: mopping up water downstairs, coming off vacation early to assist in the clean-up work, chainsawing up an huge tree limb which fell no doubt due to the weight of the rain; meeting in emergency sessions. One by one their plans did change!

But isn’t God allowed to change our directions in order to accomplish His purposes?

In the Bible there is such a man who was led by God to change directions, not only for himself, but for the entire nation. That man was Nehemiah.

The work does not begin with the first stone laid, the first concrete poured, the first use of downstairs once again.

The work begins with us – those who profess to know the Lord Jesus and who love First Baptist Church of Earlville. The work begins with us.

And now you know the rest of the story. Is your name “Nehemiah”? Do you have a surrendered heart? Do you have a prayerful heart? For without either, it will be very difficult to say, “let us start rebuilding. Let us begin a good work.”

Close in prayer

A note from your blog host, Frank Becker:

When I read Pastor Stopford’s sermon, the Lord touched my heart with the need of the brethren in Earlville, New York. The basement of this beautiful old church is flooding, the foundation is failing. It must be rebuilt!

I immediately thought of the checkbook balance at Cross Trainers Ministries, and I was forced to consider the great sacrifices that our donors make to support our work, because first they pay their tithes and make their offerings to their local churches.

After careful consideration, I decided to recommend to our board that we send along a hundred dollars as seed money to encourage the people of Earlville. I say, “people of Earlville” because, even if they don’t attend this church, its very existence is important to every citizen. This church and its pastor, including its dedicated workers and its members, are a bulwark against sin, and a reason why God continues to bless the people of Earlville. (Our check is already scheduled via electronic bank payment, and should arrive in seven days.)

God bless you Pastor Stopford and the people of First Baptist Church!

What greater cause, what greater legacy can any of you have than to be a part of rebuilding the walls?

—Frank Becker

“HAND”

Week Thirty-Four, 2018

THE HAND

By Senator John Grant, of Florida (Retired)

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:4)

In 1891, Juan Vucetich, an Argentine Police Official, began the first fingerprint files based on Galton pattern types. At first, Vucetich included the Bertillon System with the files. (see Bertillon below) In 1892, Juan Vucetich made the first criminal fingerprint identification.

For more than a hundred years fingerprinting has been used to identify people and solve crimes. But now there is something better. Recently, I checked into a hospital and was told to place my hand on glass. I was amazed with the image that popped up on the screen. I was told it was a palm vein biometric identification platform.Palm vein authentication works by comparing the pattern of veins in the palm (which appear as blue lines) of a person being authenticated with a pattern stored in a database. Vascular patterns are unique to each individual, according to Fujitsu research — even identical twins have different patterns. And since the vascular patterns exist inside the body, they cannot be stolen by means of photography, voice recording or fingerprints, thereby making this method of biometric authentication more secure than others.

It is newly discovered technology, but it has been around for many years. Isaiah spoke of it when he wrote: See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. (Isaiah 49:16)

This is certainly an allusion to some practice, common among the Jews at that time, of making marks on their hands or arms by punctures on the skin, with some sort of sign or representation of the city or temple, to show their affection and zeal for it. They had a method of making such punctures indelible by fire, or by staining. Perhaps it refers to God signifying that his people were always in his sight, his eyes were ever upon them, and never withdrawn from them.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Each of us is unique, unlike any other person. As the prophet said, He is ever before us. God made and knows us all.

***

Sometimes True Stories

Every few weeks we read in the headlines of another revolution somewhere in the world; an old regime has been overthrown and a new regime has taken over. Conversion is a revolution in the life of an individual. The old forces of sin, self-centeredness and evil are overthrown from their place of supreme power. Jesus Christ is put on the throne. —Billy Graham

–o–

Post Christian:

While the United States remains shaped by Christianity, the faith’s influence—particularly as a force in American politics and culture—is slowly waning. An increasing number of religiously unaffiliated, a steady drop in church attendance, the recent Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, and the growing tension over religious freedoms all point to a larger secularizing trend sweeping across the nation. But how do the numbers stack up? Is America, home to the largest Christian population in the world, actually becoming a “post-Christian” nation?

Where Are We as a Nation? Whether one believes this decline of “Christian America” calls for a time of lament, or presents great opportunity (or both) for the church, one cannot help but accept the changing landscape. In just two years, the percentage of Americans who qualify as “post-Christian” rose by 7 percentage points, from 37% in 2013 to 44% in 2015. Across the United States, cities in every state are becoming more post-Christian—some at a faster rate than others.

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QUOTES YOU CAN USE

“America is the first culture in jeopardy of amusing itself to death.” —John Piper

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10).

C.S. Lewis wrote: “Humble is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.” Focus on those you serve and witness new found value.

But whatever you do, find the God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated passion of your life, and find your way to say it and live for it and die for it. And you will make a difference that lasts. You will not waste your life. —John Piper

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Selected portions of Thoughts on Life can also be read at TheLife.com.

Your feedback is welcome and if you want to be taken off the mailing list a simple e-mail will do it. Feel free to pass this along to others and to contribute your ideas and thoughts. Address all items and comments to John.Grant@johngrant.net. © Thoughts on Life Copyright 2018

©2018 John Grant | Florida State Senator (Ret.) | 10025 Orange Grove Drive | Tampa, FL 33618

“WE’RE GOIN’ ON A WABBIT TRAIL!”

WE’RE GOIN’ ON A WABBIT TRAIL!” (Mark 6:1-6)

August 12, 2018

Rev. Jeremy B. Stopford

TODAY’S “SPECIAL”: “Helping a Friend”

Morty and Saul, are out one afternoon on a lake when their boat starts sinking.

Saul, the banker, says to Morty, “So listen, Morty, you know I don’t swim so well.”

Morty remembered how to carry another swimmer from his lifeguard class when he was just a kid. He begins tugging Saul toward shore. After twenty minutes, Morty begins to get tired.

Finally about 50 feet from shore, Morty asks Saul, “So Saul, do you suppose you could float alone?”

Saul replies, “Morty, this is a lousy time to be asking for money!”

INTRODUCTION

In the moments we have together today, we are going to look briefly at two specific themes in the 6th chapter of Mark. First, we are going to go home with Jesus – home to Nazareth where He was raised by Joseph and Mary. What will we learn about His home life that we otherwise did not know? And then we are going to go on what I call a “wabbit trail”. We are going to look at a theme which Mark portrays and see where it leads! Here we go!

PRAYER

1—WHEN THE SERVANT OF SERVANTS WAS NOT WELCOME HOME (vs. 1-6)

Once again, let’s look at our theme verse, Mark 10:45. The first 8 chapters of Mark show the Servant of servants’ training of His first disciples.

Have you ever gone back to your hometown? For some of you, that would be no further than Earlville itself. For me, it is Rye, NY, just outside New York City. My neighbor Bruce and I spent many nights camping on the islands in the pond behind our homes. I spent 8 of my first 13 years of life in Rye – more years than in any other place until Thuvia and I moved back to Norwich after college. I took Thuvia and our daughter Tonya to Rye many years later. It just wasn’t the same. I didn’t even recognize downtown – yet in reality I was looking at it through adult eyes and not through the eyes of a 13 year old.

Part of the Savior’s training included His showing them around His hometown, Nazareth. What would His disciples – and we – learn from that journey back home? At least two things:

FIRST, Questions can reveal many things!

(1) Some have said, “if I were living when Jesus was alive, I would have trusted Him.” His Nazareth neighbors spent the better part of 30 years with Him, yet all they had were questions, not trust. “How does He do what He does?” “How does He know what He knows?”

(2) They knew His family – but they didn’t know Him! Mark gives us at least two insights about His family. First, perhaps by this time Joseph has died. “Isn’t this Mary’s son?”. And the second: Mark lists His step-brothers by name: James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. AND he mentions that the Savior had sisters. Why is this important? Some false religions don’t believe that Mary had any children other than the Lord Jesus – insinuating a kind of purity that must have resulted in her having only the Savior for a Son. However, Mark is challenging us: do we believe what religions say? Or do we believe the Scriptures?

(3) “They took offense at Him” (v. 3). Pastor Harold Duff, now with the Lord, while speaking at the old Camp Lookout meetings shared his evaluation of this statement. He said it means, “they were offended at the way He did things.” They took offense at Him! They didn’t like the way He preached. They didn’t like the way He taught. They didn’t like that His closest followers were the scum of society – mainly fishermen and tax collectors and who knows what other riff-raff! They just didn’t like Him!

The Apostle Paul would later tell us in 1 Corinthians 1:25, when explaining the rejection of the gospel by both the Jewish and Gentile hearers: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” There are many modern day hearers of God’s word who take offense at Jesus. Are any of us some of them?

SECOND, Jesus “was amazed at their lack of faith.” This was an huge lesson for the early disciples, a lesson which would be often repeated and often referring to their own lack of faith. Hebrews would tell us, 11:1,6a, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…For without faith it is impossible to please Him…”. A vibrant, successful servant of the Servant of servants will have a faith which is not looking at the circumstances but at the Lord Himself. Does that describe us?

2—WE’RE GOING ON A WABBIT TRAIL!

These first 8 chapters of the Gospel of Mark are preparation material for the last 8 chapters. As in Mark 10:45, the last 8 chapters are where the Son of man gives His life a ransom for many. The first 8 chapters of Mark are where He, the Servant of servants, trains His disciples – and us – on how to serve.

In my study these past 2 weeks, I noticed how often in Mark that training centers around the lake. People today pay BIG BUCKS to spend a week, or even only a weekend, on lakefront property – perhaps even on a boat. How about you? Is that your ideal vacation?

So I went on a wabbit, er, RABBIT trail – you know, the kind where we look for one word and wonder where else it is.

Let’s go on this trail together! Write next to the passage what lesson the Servant of servants taught His disciples – and is trying to teach us. We’ll do some of these in the morning sermon. The rest are up to you! Here goes:

A. Mark 1:16: “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee…”

They didn’t know Jesus. They were seasoned fishermen, and this was their place of life. Little did they know that Jesus knew more about the water than they did! And He said 3 words of invitation to them: “Come, follow Me.” He took them from a place of familiarity – the sea and their livelihood with fish – and changed everything about their priorities and the way they looked at life. For the rest of their 3 years with Him, He would build them upon this simple foundation, “come, follow Me.” Do you love Jesus as your Savior? Is every day an opportunity to follow Him and an adventure in following Him?

B. Mark 2:13: “Once again Jesus went out beside the lake…”

The disciples did not get ALL they had to learn from Him in one lesson. Once again, He takes them back to their school – the lakeside. And once again, He teaches them. And once again, He makes a simple invitation, this time to Levi the scandalous tax collector, “Come, follow Me.” In both A & B, the simple lesson is this: following Jesus is obeying Him. And that brought great pleasure to Him.

C. Mark 3:7: “Withdrew to the lake…”

From what did Jesus and His disciples withdraw? Look at 3:6: the Pharisees and the Herodians were showing their initial plots to try to kill Jesus. He was showing His early servants that even the Servant of servants knew to withdraw from the challenges and hardships of life. Those hardships would still be there – in fact, they would follow Him to the cross. But He taught His disciples that to “withdraw” meant to retreat to the Father, to be refreshed in the fellowship of the Servant of servants, to be re-charged to face the next mission with a renewed strength and vigor.

Jesus says, “come unto Me all Who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you…REST!”. Have you withdrawn lately?

D. Mark 4:1: “Again Jesus began to teach by the lake…”

What is the key word in this sentence? The word “again”. The early disciples did not get it all in the first lesson! By the second lesson, they forgot some of what they learned the first lesson! Why, they might even need a third lesson! Romans 5:3b-4 say, “we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation produces patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope.” Experience comes from life’s lessons, and those lessons produce hope. These servants had lessons to be learned. Are we willing and available to learn life’s lessons?

E. Mark 4:35: “Let’s go over to the other side…”

The Savior did what? He took His servants in training away from the security of the shore. If you’ve ever been out to sea for any length of time, what one thing do you look forward to: putting your feet once again on solid ground! But the Savior knew that His lessons could not be learned this day at the shore. They would have to be learned in the middle of the sea, where the storms of life would be, and where, much to their young experience, He, too, would be. His rebuke? “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? The lessons of faith can only be learned by the experience of the storm.

F. Mark 5:1: “They went across the lake…”

What is the Savior teaching here? That there are lessons to be learned on the other side of the lake! What if they said, “this is a nice spot to stay. Let’s anchor our lives in the security of this side of the lake. Why, there is plenty of wood for nice campfires! There is a little cove in which to rest or sleep.” What would happen? They would never learn the Servant of servants’ lessons from the other side of the lake!

G. Mark 5:21: “When Jesus had again crossed over by boat…”

There’s that word “again” again! The Savior’s lessons are non-stop! Just when we think we’ve “got it all together”, He takes us out of our comfort zone and takes us across the lake again! Jesus invites us to rest in Him. But He never says that that rest won’t involve a little travel!

H. Mark 6:47-49 “the boat was in the middle of the lake…”

Note how this story unfolds. This is one of Mark’s last mentions of a lake lesson. The Savior stays on the shore while HE makes His learning servants to get in the boat and cross the lake. They wouldn’t learn the lessons of life at the shore. They wouldn’t learn the lessons of life on the other shore. They would learn these new lessons of life in the middle of the lake. Is there security there? Nope! It may be hundreds of feet to the bottom of the lake! It may be thousands of yards to the shore! There is absolutely no human security in the middle of the lake! But when the Savior came out to them walking on the water and ultimately getting into the boat with them, what did He say?

“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

There will be many times that we don’t have any of life’s answers. But in the middle of the lake of the most recent of life’s lessons, Jesus says even to us, “Take courage! It is I! Don’t be afraid!”.

That’s quite a wabbit, er, rabbit trail. But this trail is one of the major roads to the disciples turning from raw men to dynamic servants of the Servant of servants!

CONCLUSION

What a great chapter, Mark Chapter 6! The Savior was not welcome home! But in His homegoing, His fellow disciples learned that while the world has no true faith, the foundation of their servanthood would be a faith rooted in the Servant of servants Himself. They were not to be offended in the way He does things!

And the lake – their most favorite and frequent setting in all of their lives before meeting the Savior – would be the scene of innumerable previously unknown lessons in their becoming His servants.

They would ask us today: are we teachable? Begin at the beginning: follow Jesus. Withdraw to Him daily. And trust! He alone is worthy!

Close in prayer

Rev. Jeremy Stopford, with wife Thuvia

Pastor, the First Baptist Church, Earlville, New York.

THE TRAP

Week Thirty-Three, 2018

THE TRAP

By John Grant

Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 1 Corinthians 7:5

Recently we acquired a new puppy. She is cute as a button and full of energy. Puppies are fun, but come untrained, so these past few months we have been training her. She has her own dog crate, where she goes for the night and whenever we are gone or she needs to stay out of trouble.

The problem has been getting her into the cage. When she knows it is time she is hard to catch. Sometimes I wish I had an old-fashioned dog catchers net. But then we figured a better way by putting a treat in the crate so she would go in. We could then shut the door behind her. Now she knows a treat will be there and even when she is far away and we say “kennel up” she will run to it.

Satan is much like that. He baits the trap with goodies for us to follow and sooner or later the door shuts behind us. He uses all types of things…. People, money, power, etc. It is like baiting the mousetrap with cheese.

At some point, we have all fallen into the snares of evil. Oh, the bait looks so good. Surely the world won’t label the traps from Satan, but the Bible will. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 6:9, “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.”

Satan’s three greatest temptations are flesh, tempting God and discontentment. Jesus said, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.”

Discontentment is a clear pathway for Satan to capture and place you under his command. We live in a world where billions are spent on advertising each year and the main goal is to make you unsatisfied with what you have. Easy credit, keeping up with your next door neighbor and the like are all used by the devil to lead you into destruction and once you get there, he slams the door behind you.

If you are not content, you want to own the whole world, all what is in the world, you are on your way to falling into Satan worship. Whenever you are tempted by good things or bad, ask what Jesus would do.

Temptation is mentioned thirty four times in the Bible and similar words many more. Whenever you are tempted, turn first to the Bible for guidance. It will save you many a heartache.

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SOMETIMES TRUE STORIES

There’s an old story about the preacher asked to teach a young boys’ Bible Class in the absence of the regular teacher. So He decided to find out how much they knew about the bible.

After asking a few simple questions like, “Who made the earth, sun and stars?” he asked them, “Who knocked down the walls of Jericho?”

All the boys acknowledged their ignorance. None of them could tell him who knocked down the walls of Jericho.

At the church’s next business meeting, the preacher expressed his dismay at the young boys’ lack of Bible knowledge, “Not one of them knows who knocked down the walls of Jericho.”

The group was oddly silent until finally, one man spoke up. “Preacher, this appears to be bothering you quite a lot. But, I’ve known these boys since they were all born and they’re all good boys. If they said they don’t know, then I believe them. Let’s just take some money out of the repair fund, fix the walls, and forget about it.”

–o–

PERSECUTION

Christians today are persecuted in 139 nations around the world. It is estimated that four to five acts of religious discrimination worldwide are directed against Christians. Countries that were previously relatively moderate or avowedly secular have stepped up their hostility against Christians.

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QUOTES YOU CAN USE

In The Words Lincoln Lived By, Gene Griessman tells of a time during the Civil War when a group of clergymen met with President Lincoln. One of them commented, “I hope the Lord is on our side.” Lincoln replied, “I am not at all concerned about that, for I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side”

Serenity is not the rule of the Kingdom. Servanthood is. Ken Whitten

I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18

God didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people alive. Ravi Zachariah

***

Selected portions of Thoughts on Life can also be read at TheLife.com.

Your feedback is welcome and if you want to be taken off the mailing list a simple e-mail will do it. Feel free to pass this along to others and to contribute your ideas and thoughts. Address all items and comments to John.Grant@johngrant.net. © Thoughts on Life Copyright 2018

©2018 John Grant | Florida State Senator (Ret.) | 10025 Orange Grove Drive | Tampa, FL 33618

The Holy Spirit

By Brother Al Salay

The Holy Spirit is the dynamic voice of God

Speaking on planet Earth.

He is alive, powerful, penetrating.

In some rare instances God might speak to us verbally, out loud, in the realm of human hearing, These are special and unforgettable visits. Mostly, God speaks to us quietly, by His Holy Spirit. He speaks to our understanding, to our soul, to our heart. The very printed Word of God, the Holy Bible, was recorded by men, but it was written as inspired by the Holy Spirit.

  • Holy Spirit is the author.

  • Holy Spirit is the source of every understanding that is found in the book.

  • Holy Spirit reveals the Father and the Son.

  • Holy Spirit convicts each mortal of their sinful nature.

  • Holy Spirit invites them to the redemption that is in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

  • Holy Spirit anoints the reading of the Word.

  • Holy Spirit is our constant companion and counsellor, seeking to be heard and heeded.

  • Holy Spirit is active in the world today.

Be a person saved or unsaved,

Committed to Christ or committed to self,

The Holy Spirit of God speaks to all.

He cannot be avoided.

From that day long ago when God created Adam out of the dust of the Earth, from that moment when He breathed on him and he became a living being, the Holy Spirit has been available to every man and woman that came forth from Adam.

Those who despise obedience seek to deny Him. To deny Him does not erase His labors or terminate His presence. He is patient and consistent. He labors on while life tarries!

However, He has told us that He shall not always be patient (Gen. 6:3). There will come a time when He will no longer labor with rebellious men. That time may not be far away.

So then, since the Holy Spirit is active amongst men in this day, speaking to their understanding, why do so many ignore Him and His holy voice?

Clearly, one reason is that some men and women are in rebellion against God. They reject God’s grace. They have no willingness to enter into the Kingdom of Righteousness. This is, of course, sad. They are the captives of the enemy of their souls. Believers must seek God to wrestle with that vile enemy that keeps them in the bondage of blindness. We must seek to see the scales of spiritual blindness taken from them.

Another group has recognized their own sinful nature. Therefore they have accepted the atoning grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so, they live in peace, hope and joy. Yet, they plod with difficulty through much of their Christian life.

Why the travail?

Because they are regularly ignoring that constant guiding presence that is the Holy Spirit. Their spiritual ears are shut.

  • He is that still, small voice, guiding into paths of righteousness those who are willing to hear.

  • He is the breath of God, set in the dust of the Earth.

  • He is as present in our being as is any part of our physical body. He must be heard.

And There IS MORE!

During those few short years that Jesus occupied a body of flesh here on this Earth, He taught truth and ministered in love. Wherever He went, the people He met learned and believed and many were healed. Alas, in those days, Jesus being a person in the flesh, could only be in one place at a time. He could minister wonderfully where He was, but all the rest of the world could only wait.

When Jesus was about to complete His ministry on Earth, He told His disciples that they would be receiving a gift. He would ask the Father and the Father would send them a new measure of the same Holy Spirit. (John 14:16-18) This new presence would add power and wisdom. This would be the fulfillment of the ancient promise in the book of Joel. (Acts 2:16-18)

The Great Multiplication

  • When Jesus was gone from this earth and the fullness of the Holy Spirit was given to His Disciples at Pentecost, His presence was multiplied!

  • Each of His followers now became a special vessel, inhabited by the power of His Holy Spirit.

  • Now, His followers could spread out through the whole world to carry His message and His compassionate grace.

Ministering In The Power

Today believers are invited to minister in the under-used power and presence of the Holy Spirit. He is ready, willing and able to move through them. There are some conditions though. To walk in the power and presence of Holy Spirit, we must –

  • Dwell with Him, continually.

  • Expect to hear Him and be attuned to His voice.

  • Be quick to respond when He speaks.

Then we will see

His power and presence

Flow through us.

07/18

Presented by Bro. Al Salay, Blessed Man Ministries Inc.

Webpage: www.BlessedMan.net

Email: BlessedMan@BlessedMan.net

“A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY”

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY” (Mark Chapter 5)

August 5, 2018 10:30 AM

By Jeremy B. Stopford

TODAY’S “SPECIAL”: STINGY RICH MAN

A crumbling old church building needed remodeling, so, during his sermon, the preacher made an impassioned appeal looking directly at the richest man in town.

At the end of the sermon, the rich man stood up and announced, “Pastor, I will contribute $1,000.”

Just then, plaster fell from the ceiling and struck the rich man on the shoulder. He promptly stood back up and shouted, “Pastor, I will increase my donation to $5,000.”

Before he could sit back down, plaster fell on him again, and again he virtually screamed, “Pastor, I will double my last pledge.”

He sat down, and a larger chunk of plaster fell on his head. He stood up once more and hollered, “Pastor, I will give $20,000!”

This prompted a deacon to shout, “Hit him again, Lord! Hit him again!”

INTRODUCTION

You make plans. We make plans. We all make plans. And then it happens. While on our way to fulfill those plans, there is an interruption which momentarily delays what you originally set out to do.

In life, we deal with it.

Mark Chapter 5 is a lesson describing 3 accounts. The first is the healing of the demon-possessed man, through v. 20. Twice he says “no one”. Psalm 142:4 says, “no one cares for my soul.” Are there people in your life when they come to you, you INSTANTLY think, “I can’t wait for them to leave – I want to be with those ‘of my own kind’.” Jesus cared for this man when and where no one else did – and He met that demon-possessed man right where he was, and drew him to the Lordship of Christ in his life.

Then there are 2 more incidents in this chapter, one within the other!

The disciples are going to learn today that servanthood – true servanthood – happens when you are making other plans, when before the Lord you have given Him the freedom to do whatever He wants with your life. PRAYER

# 1 THE PRELIMINARIES (vs. 21-24a)

A. “They crossed over by boat” (vs. 1,21) – we are going to see this comment once more in Chapter 6. This is Mark’s way of saying a simple statement: the first 8 chapters of Mark are designed to train the disciples to be servants. The LAST 8 chapters of Mark are designed to focus them on the goal: the death, burial, and resurrection of the Servant of servants (Mark 10:45).

B. “One of the synagogue rulers” (v. 22). You’ve heard the expression, “thinking outside the box”? It is also defined as “getting out of your comfort zone.” These servants in training are watching a man, a well-trained, discipled servant of the synagogue, reach his depth in hurt when he comes to the Savior, his last hope.

C. One more point: and this is good sermon material! The ruler:

(1) Came and saw Jesus (v. 22a) – Jesus said to His prospective disciples, “come and see” (John 1:39ff). The ruler did!

(2) He fell at His feet (v. 22b) – a position of absolute resignation. Is Jesus our only Hope? He was this ruler’s last and only Hope!

(3) He pleaded earnestly (v. 23a) – throughout Scripture we are invited, “Call unto Me and I will answer you” (Jer. 33:3); “Come unto Me all who are weary and heavy burdened” (Matt. 1:28). He plead earnestly.

(4) He was specific in his plea (v. 23b): “my little daughter is dying.” He came right to the point. He didn’t barter with God. He didn’t say, “IF you do this, I WILL follow you the rest of my life.” No, he was specific.

(5) Lastly, he didn’t know Jesus’ style (v. 23c): “please come and put Your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” What did he just do that the disciples would observe? He boxed Jesus in! He restricted how Jesus should operate!

And how did Jesus respond? “YOU IDIOT! Don’t you know that I am come to SERVE! I will do whatever I want! Don’t you tell ME what to do!”.

No, the scriptures simply state, “Jesus went with him” (v. 24a). Grace on display. Big lesson for the disciples. Big lesson for us! Don’t box Jesus in! Allow Him to bring glory to Himself any way He wants! Rest in Him alone, and then watch Him at work! The disciples would see this by the end of the chapter.

# 2. THE INTERRUPTION: “A funny thing happened on the way!” (vs. 24bff)

A. The scene: a large crowd (v. 24b) is pressing in on Jesus. The disciples would later advise Jesus – don’t you love this? – that “can’t You see that the people are crowding You?”. Yes, He could.

B. In the midst of that crowd – the many – there is one woman.

ILLUSTRATION: The Beatles had a song, “Eleanor Rigby”, which was used in the documentary on the foundation of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale – one of our nation’s largest churches in both building size and attendance. Dr. Kennedy taught a radical course to his parishioners called “Evangelism Explosion”. I went to his original storefront church on Commercial Boulevard. There weren’t a whole lot of people there. What made the change? In the song, the Beatles comment, “all the lonely people: where do they all come from? Where do they all belong?” Dr. Kennedy taught his people Biblical truth: Jesus sees in the crowd the individual. And so should we!

C. The woman’s physical need overwhelmed any of her other needs:

(1) Subject to bleeding for 12 years (v. 25) – presumably, ladies sorry, a non-stop menstrual bleeding. This meant that, like our earlier fellow with leprosy, she was an untouchable. Her clothes would never be clean. She would stink. She could not be around people for too long without being noticed and ostracized, ridiculed brutally. Have you been there? Please note the Number 12. She had this hideous ailment for 12 years. The synagogue’s ruler was 12 years old. And they are both addressed as “daughters”. Coincidence? No – remember, the Servant-Savior sees the individual!

(2) She had suffered under doctor care (can you imagine what that care must have been?). And it cost her both financially and emotionally all that she had, with absolutely no betterment but further helplessness (v. 26). Like the ruler whose daughter was dying, she had no hope. No hope. The Bible says we are all born “without God, without hope” (Ephesians 2:12). We, too, suffered as these daughters did – maybe not physically – but we suffered because we have felt absolutely helpless and hopeless.

(3) True faith sees things out of one’s comfort zone (vs. 27-28). She:

(a) Heard about Jesus (v. 27)

(b) Thought what she ought to do (v. 28) – how many others there in the crowd were needy? How many others thought what they ought to do?

(c) She touched His cloak (v. 27). This is not without Biblical precedent. In Matthew 14:36, the men of Gennesaret urged sick people to Jesus and begged Him to let them just “touch the edge of His cloak”. And it follows, “and all who touched Him were healed.” Perhaps she knew about that. Or perhaps in her coming to her wit’s end, this is all she could think to do.

D. The results were “out of this world”!

(1). Immediately (v. 29) – there it is again, the key word of the Gospel of Mark! – she was healed! The wording is such that she was healed, never to be a victim again. It was a permanent healing. The bleeding stopped. Her physical and emotional suffering was over. She was…FREED from her suffering! Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in Him, in John 8:32, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” This unnamed daughter knew she was free!

(2). The ETERNAL MATCHLESS SERVANT SAVIOR OF THE WORLD knew – He KNEW! – that power had gone out from Him because someone had touched His garments (v. 30). Thus begins another lesson.

How many people were there? A CROWD!

How many people probably touched Him in that time frame? A CROWD!

How many people benefited from touching Him? ONE DAUGHTER!

(3) As she falls trembling before Him, falling at His feet, He lovingly says 3 things:

(a) He addresses her in terms of endearment: “daughter” (not “WOMAN”). Perhaps for the first time in over 12 years, she hears words of love.

(b) He addresses the true source of her healing: “your faith”. Yes, HE was the Source of her healing. But the human element was her trust in Him. That is true faith in action!

(c) He gave her verification of what had happened: she was healed, she was in peace, she was freed. (v. 34)

And she was never to be heard from again. Do you think these observing potential future servants of the Servant-Savior remembered the many lessons the Savior taught them through this daughter?

CONCLUSION

As we close, we must take a quick look at what happened to the other “daughter” – the 12 year old – of our story.

Do you remember the father’s desire, why demand, for the Savior? “Put Your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” (v. 23)

What did He do? “He took her by the hand” and spoke to her, ‘get up!’”

A funny thing happened on the way to the house of the ruler of the synagogue.

What is our lesson today? “True servanthood occurs when the servant of the King allows Him to do what He wants, even if we have made other plans.”

Aren’t you glad the disciples didn’t miss this lesson?

Aren’t you glad we didn’t either?

Close in prayer

Rev. Jeremy B. Stopford, Pastor

First Baptist Church

Earlville, New York

The Golden One

Week Thirty-Two, 2018

THE GOLDEN ONE

By John Grant

Therefore whatever you desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets. Matthew 7:12

Matthew 7:12 is the twelfth verse of the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament and is part of the Sermon on the Mount. This well-known verse presents what has become known as The Golden Rule. It is considered to be a summation of the entire sermon.

It has always been a summation of my career, because when I became a lawyer, it was the hallmark of my profession…. treat others as you would like to be treated and seek justice for all you serve.

This hallmark of the profession was particularly real to me recently when I attended the state bar convention to be recognized and honored for having practiced law in the state for fifty years. When I took the oath before the court in 1968, there were many who took it with me. Today there are only 313 who joined me in the golden celebration.

A lot has happened over those fifty years and the celebration brought back a lot of memories. It was my mother who told me at an early age that I should be a lawyer, allegedly because I talked so much.

I was in college and still didn’t know what I would do. I heard that the attorney Louis Nizer, a famous Jewish-American lawyer was coming to town and I went to hear him. There I met Judge Harold Sebring, the famous judge who presided over the Nuremburg Trials after World War II. By then he had become a professor and law school dean. He invited me to visit the law school and the rest is history.

I applied for and received a scholarship that paid for my books and tuition. I married the prettiest lady in town, who had a fresh teaching degree and a job offer of $4,700 per year teaching first grade that put gas in our car and food on our table. We lived very comfortably, as I worked through the courses.

Upon graduation, I was enamored with the high calling of my profession. I got a job as an associate attorney in a local firm for $500 per month and taught at the university at night to make ends meet.

My first court appearance was to argue a writ of habeas corpus for a man who had been wrongly imprisoned. I also worked the other side as a prosecutor, trying people who had committed serious crimes and needed to be off the streets for their own good and for the good of others. In each and every case, winning or losing was not relevant, justice was.

Over the years I have practiced several types of law for several firms, and continue to do so today. Still, the goal is not making money or getting notoriety, but to use the words of Job to “do what doth the Lord doth require of thee, to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”

It’s been a great ride.

***

SOMETIMES TRUE STORIES

A father who was teaching his children to play the piano. He went to great lengths to explain how important it was to practice. One day he decided to try a new illustration.

“Do you know who Arnold Schwarzenegger is?” he asked.

The children said, “Yes. He’s an actor.”

“Do you know how he became famous?” the Dad continued.

Seeing they were unsure, he told the children that he was famous because he was very strong. “He has huge muscles. His arms are bigger than my legs.”

Then the Dad asked the key question, “Do you know how he got his big muscles?”

After a moments silence, his son reluctantly replied, “By playing the piano?”

–o–

The mother of the bride and the mother of the groom were having some difficulties with each other as they planned the wedding. They went together to pick out their own dresses for the wedding and both liked the same dress and they each wanted it. Finally the groom’s mother told the bride’s mother that she should have it since it looked so good on her. The bride’s mother then went back to the dress shop later and purchased the identical dress and proceeded to wear it to the rehearsal dinner.

***

QUOTES YOU CAN USE

Forgiveness is a beautiful word until you have to do it. Ken Whitten

Forgiveness – Releasing a person by choice from a debt or obligation incurred to you because of a wrong done against you. Ken Whitten

Stop focusing on what someone has done TO you. Start focusing on what God has done FOR you. Ken Whitten

He that cannot forgive others burns the bridge over which he must pass himself, for every man has to be forgiven. Thomas Fuller

Christians must focus on the permanence of marriage. Ken Whitten

When churches begin factional fighting it is a sign that they have lost their mission and purpose.

***

Selected portions of Thoughts on Life can also be read at TheLife.com.

Your feedback is welcome and if you want to be taken off the mailing list a simple e-mail will do it. Feel free to pass this along to others and to contribute your ideas and thoughts. Address all items and comments to John.Grant@johngrant.net. © Thoughts on Life Copyright 2018

©2018 John Grant | Florida State Senator (Ret.) | 10025 Orange Grove Drive | Tampa, FL 33618

“OUR NOT SO SECRET WEAPON”

OUR NOT SO SECRET WEAPON” Mark 4:1-20

July 29, 2018 10:30 AM

By Jeremy B. Stopford

TODAY’S “SPECIAL”: A Grandma Funny

A pastor assured his congregation he was their servant and that they should feel free to call him anytime they had a problem.

That very night the pastor’s phone rang at 3 a.m. On the other end was a dear elderly lady who said, “Pastor, I can’t sleep.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” he comforted her.

“But what can I do about it?” the pastor said.

She sweetly replied, “Preach to me a while, pastor.”

INTRODUCTION

Let’s review our Savior’s lessons on servanthood:

(1) Memory verse: Mark 10:45

(2) In Chapter 1, the Savior taught us that servants see people through the eyes of His Father. As a result, we may be touching people that are the untouchables of life.

(3) In Chapter 2, through the story of the paralytic man, the Lord Jesus taught us that servants have faith. They trust the Lord that they will see people through His eyes, and have His eternal compassion on them.

(4) Finally, in Chapter 3, the Savior teaches us that true servants of the Lord, while recognizing the eternal battles to be fought, also see each day as “another time” to be used for His glory.

Today we will be treading familiar ground: the parable of the sower. But through this parable, once again we will learn about the servant of the Lord’s not so secret weapon. Do you know what it is? It’s no secret! PRAYER

# 1. OVERVIEW OF THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER

A This parable tells us that Jesus believes there is only one criteria which tells whether or not we are walking with the Lord, much less know the Lord as our Savior: the Word of God. Well, what is Jesus asking: “what is the priority of the Word of God in my life, in your life?” And “how is it falling on the soil of your heart?”

B. This parable also has a huge underlying message: how many different soils were there in the story? (4). How many different kinds of seeds were there? (only ONE – the Word of God!). So it is not the problem with the age old seed that causes hearts to be unreachable – like at one time your heart, and now your neighbor’s heart, and your brother’s heart, and your mother’s heart, and your boss’s heart, and your co-worker’s heart and…they are so unreachable for the Lord. It is not the problem with the seed! It is a heart problem!

ILLUSTRATION: So a man goes to the doctor and says, “doctor, I can’t breathe. I lose my breath just trying to go for walks.” The doctor knows the man has issues with frequent pneumonia, so he does an huge test on his lungs. His final conclusion: your problem is with your heart. He realized that he was checking the wrong organ! The heart was not functioning as it was designed to do. And our hearts are designed to by their Creator to respond to the Word of God. When they don’t, it means we are responding to the wrong voice – the voice of the enemy rather than the voice of the Good Shepherd.

C. Look at verse 20 – the Savior’s conclusion to this parable. What did we say before? How many different soils were there? (4). How many seeds? (1). So it shouldn’t surprise us that the Savior says that each one’s reception of the Word will be different as well. It is not wrong to be a 30 fold fruit bearer; nor a 60 fold fruit bearer, nor a 100 fold fruit bearer! The one that God has designed to bear 30 fold should not be ashamed that he is not an 100 fold fruit bearer. And the 100 fold fruit bearer cannot gloat it over the 60 fold fruit bearer simply because God enables him to bear significantly more fruit. I’m not Billy Graham. But I’m Jeremy Stopford. You’re not Hudson Taylor, one of the fathers of modern missions. But you are you. And the Lord has equipped you to be a servant for Him where He has wisely put you, and with the gifts that are unique to you. And in turn bring glory to the Good Shepherd, the Gift Giver, for what He enables and equips you to do!

# 2 OVERVIEW OF THE PROPHET ISAIAH 6:1-10

In the midst of this amazing account, the Lord alludes to what appears to be an obscure passage from Isaiah 6. Let’s turn there.

What is the context of verses 9-10 which are quoted by the Savior? King Uzziah, a most godly king, has been a tremendous blessing both to the nation of Israel as well as to the prophet Isaiah. They worked well together. Uzziah led; Isaiah counseled with the Word of the Lord. IF it is true that Isaiah 6 is early on in Isaiah’s ministry, it means that the most impressionable young prophet was devastated by the death of the king. All that goodness that Uzziah exuded in his leadership was now gone. There were uncertainties as to whether or not his son would be as wise and good a leader. It is not written here, but it is most understood: Isaiah’s mourning took the form of a wonder as to “who would be in charge? Where will we go from here? How can we make it through this dark period of our nation’s life, much less my life?”. You and I have been there – whether at the passing of a loved one, or the loss of certain income, or the sudden mistrust of a longtime close friend. Where do we go from here? How can we make it through?

And then? Isaiah saw the vision of the Throne of God. He saw Who truly is in charge! He saw the Lord in His glory, and all questions, all uncertainties were settled – even though they were not yet lived out.

But the story doesn’t end there. The reaching for the live coals, the placing on the prophet’s mouth, the purging/cleansing of the prophet, and his availability to be a servant for the King of kings.

Please note the plurality in unity of the revelation of God. What? The question!!!! “Whom shall I send? And who will go for US?” And Isaiah’s response should be the response of every servant of the Lord: “here am I – send…SOMEONE ELSE! ARE YOU KIDDING? Do you know me? I get scared in public! I’m no good around people! I’ve got a good job! Don’t mess with my time schedule for my life! Please! I’m no good to go! Send Carl! Or Bill! But not me!”

No, while our fears may have those answers, our surrender as the Lord’s servant will calmly say on bended knee and bended heart, “here am I, send me.” Is that my heart, your heart, my response, your response today?

But the story doesn’t end there either! Verses 9-10 are quoted in our passage in Mark 4. As with the servants who heard the parable of the sower, the Lord tells Isaiah what to expect from those who are hearing the Word of God on different soils: “the people to whom I have sent you have calloused hearts; they have deaf ears; they have closed their eyes to the truth.”

What is Jesus telling us in Mark 4 by quoting this passage from Isaiah 6? That people are the same in every generation. Even 2000 years later. People are comfortable. We think we are privileged. We are owed care. And as a result, we are in ourselves deaf and blind to the love of God in Christ Jesus. The Savior reminds His present day servants of the Lord that the people to whom He has sent them in themselves have no use for Him. They are without God and without hope. It will take a modern day miracle for their hearts to change, just as it did in Isaiah’s day and in the days of our Savior.

CONCLUSION

So how could Jesus’ disciples expect to minister to such an ornery people? How were they expected to be used by Him to begin what would become the modern church of God? How is it possible that God could take the unskilled servants and turn the world upside down for Him through them? How? How? How?

The answer is through our not-so-secret weapon!

Key verse for servants: v. 10. When Jesus was alone, the 12 and others felt the freedom to ask Him about the parables. They knew to come to the One Who would teach them how to…pray! They knew they could approach Him with all their uncertainties in life! They knew they could ask Him about the different soils of the heart. They knew they could mourn with Him when the Word of God fell upon a heart which ultimately had no use for the Word. They knew they could rejoice with Him when the Word of God fell upon a heart that was tender for the Savior. They knew they could serve Him as His servants because they had this secret weapon: the weapon of prayer. These servants were never alone – the Savior was only a prayer away.

TODAY, the King of kings asks His present day servants: Has My Word fallen on good soil in your heart? Does it daily encourage that soil? And are you taking advantage of the not so secret weapon of spending time with Me in prayer?” How would you answer Him today?

Close in prayer.

The Reverend Jeremy B. Stopford is pastor of the First Baptist Church in Earlville, New York.

Jeremy Stopford, and his wife Thuvia,

The love and devotion of pastors like Jeremy Stopford, are often eclipsed by the notoriety of often lesser men who build the impersonal and sometimes spiritually-bankrupt mega-churches of our age.

Frank Becker

THE GREATEST BOOK OF LITERATURE

Week Thirty-One, 2018

THE GREATEST BOOK OF LITERATURE

By John Grant

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The book written by Cullen Schippe and Chuck Stetson, The Bible and Its Influence, continues to make headway among educational circles. It still strikes me as contradictory that some schools require reading of other religious books as a part of a well-rounded education, but ban even possession or clubs that study the Bible, as it is considered a proselytizing, neanderthalic and unrealistic fictional literature. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Bible is not a book about religion. It is God’s word to His people about how to live their life. The Bible has influenced the shaping of Western civilization. Throughout recorded history wars have been waged and still are today.

The Bible is a book like no other. The sacred text can arguably be considered the most influential book ever published.

“The influence of the Bible is worldwide,” wrote Arthur Pink, the Christian evangelist. “Its mighty power has affected every department of human activity. The contents of the Scriptures have supplied themes for the greatest poets, artists and musicians which the world has yet produced, and have been the mightiest factor of all in shaping moral progress.

How can anyone understand Handel’s Messiah without understanding how it interfaces with the Bible?

The Bible is influential because it is the world’s bestselling book, breaking all records known to man. According to The Guinness Book of World Records, since 1815 the Bible has sold approximately 2.5 billion copies and has been translated into more than 2,200 languages.

The Bible is especially influential in American society. In the 2012 State of the Bible report released by the American Bible Society found that In America, 85% of households own a Bible. The majority of Americans believe the Bible provides answers on how to live a meaningful life. The Bible is important for appreciating culture, history and politics. It is important for the visual arts, literature and history. The influence of the Bible on society has been important throughout history.

The Bible is the model for and subject of more art and thought than those of us who live within its influence, consciously or unconsciously, will ever know.

***

SOMETIMES TRUE STORIES

Consensus Does Not Determine Morality:

Legalization of same-sex marriage is now supported by most religious groups according to a study released on May 1st by the Public Religion Research Institute. The survey was based on more than 40,000 responses collected during 2017. It found that 61% of Americans now support same-sex marriage. Only 31% oppose it. The support is the strongest among politically liberal groups such as Jews (77%) and Unitarians (97%). Those identified as unaffiliated approved at 80%.

Jana Reiss, reporting for the Religious News Service writes, “What is more surprising is how quickly support for same-sex marriage has grown among religious groups that are more politically diverse. Two-thirds of Catholics, Orthodox Christians and white mainline Protestants now say they are in favor.”

“Majorities of Americans in most states support same-sex marriage,” observed Reiss, “with the exceptions all located in the South. Even in the handful of states that do not have more than 50 percent support for same-sex marriage, they also don’t have 50 percent opposition; Alabama is now the only state where a majority of residents say they oppose same-sex marriage.”

I do wonder about the accuracy of the survey. But regardless, I know this. Morality is not determined by consensus. For those who truly respect the Bible, we know that the majority can be and often is wrong.

People forget that God has revealed His standard of morality and regulations regarding marriage in the Bible. While laws may be enacted by governments giving people the right to engage in immoral practices, no human legislature can nullify what God has authorized. The apostle Paul admonished Christians to “flee sexual immorality” (1 Cor 6:18). Furthermore, he warned “Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God”(1 Cor 6:9-10).

Approval by religious organizations and their members does not change God’s Word or sanctify sinful behavior. If we are going to make progress in the pursuit of holiness, we must aim to live according to the precepts of Scripture–not according to the culture, even the Christian culture, around us.”

Be advised that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17) When it comes to moral choices may our beliefs and convictions be rooted in Scripture, not culture or popular consensus.–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman

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QUOTES YOU CAN USE

Time is like a river. You cannot touch the water twice, because the flow that has passed will never pass again.

If you are not doing what you are passionate about, be passionate for what you are doing. John Rivers

Wars are not won by evacuation. Churchill

Man leads a wedding but God creates a marriage. Ken Whitten

The Lord never tells us to do anything without telling us how.

There will be a day when I write my laws on your heart. Jeremiah 31:30

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Selected portions of Thoughts on Life can also be read at TheLife.com.

Your feedback is welcome and if you want to be taken off the mailing list a simple e-mail will do it. Feel free to pass this along to others and to contribute your ideas and thoughts. Address all items and comments to John.Grant@johngrant.net. © Thoughts on Life Copyright 2018

“Our Changeless God in a Changing World”

THEME: “Our Changeless God in a Changing World”

By Almon Bartholomew

Text: Isaiah 6:1-8: “In the year king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord, sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple.

Above it stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.

And one cried unto one another, and said, Holy. Holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.

And the posts of the door moved at the sound of the voice of Him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.

Then said I, Woe is me for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.

Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off of the altar.

And he laid it upon my mouth and said, Lo this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away and thy sin is purged.

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, here am I, send me.”

Our principle text is taken from this chapter in Isaiah. It begins with a significant note of history, the death of one of Israel’s most prominent kings; Uzziah by name. He was morally upright. The nation prospered under his leadership. National pride and international standing rose to new levels of high. Israel emerged from dark depression and oppression during his reign. The realm became militarily secure. Commerce prospered. He received strong popular support. Things were going well. The future looked bright.

Then, the unthinkable happened. This great national leader died and it signaled the strong possibility of decline. A sense of loss, of drift, of insecurity swept the country. Unanswered questions concerning the future begged answers.

The prophet Isaiah was as troubled as anyone else. Something happened that stirred him to a new level of God consciousness. He had been deeply devoted to, and thankful for, an outstanding earthly king. But now he was removed. Super imposed above all of this, he beheld a vision of the Heavenly, the Eternal King. This Monarch of the Universe was still on His throne. Isaiah said, “I saw the Lord, high and lifted up and His train filled the temple”. This Almighty, the unchanging God, was attended by Cherubim and Seraphim. His praise was sung by a choir of angels. The doorposts of His abode, the heavenly temple, shook at the sound of His voice.

The lesson learned by Isaiah must be learned by us today. Kingdoms rise and fall. Empires flourish and then crumble. Emperors, kings, dictators and world leaders march across the stage of history and disappear. Presidents and members of congress come and go at the whim of the people. Stock markets soar and crash. Good health can be a fleeting experience. Life is full of changes, some predictable and some unpredictable. In your working days you never anticipated the life style in which you are now involved. When all else falls or fails, God remains constant. As the dear elderly lady, “Miss Diggs,” who attended our chapel services, whom we knew so well, would sing;

God is God and He don’t never change;

God is God, and He always will be God.

He’s God of the mighty ocean; He’s God of the raging seas. He’s God of the fiery furnace; sure has been a God to me. He’s up in the pulpit; He’s God back at the door.

He’s God in the Amen corner; He’s God all over the floor.

God is God He don’t never change. God is God, and He always will be God.”

Through all this whirlwind of change, there is but one constant. God in heaven does not change. He declares in Malachi 3:6; “I am the Lord and I change not”. We can utterly depend upon Him!

This was a life changing experience for Isaiah as he made this discovery. While in the presence of a majestic, holy God, the prophet became aware of his own sinful condition and wailed “Woe is me, for I am undone. I am just like the rest of the people”. With that confession a heavenly angel took tongs from the heavenly store and lifted a fiery coal from heaven’s altar, applied it to the prophet’s lips, purging him of his iniquity, cleansing him from all sin. He then drew close enough to this eternal God to listen in on divine family conversation. Eavesdropping is not necessarily a good thing. However, it is a good thing to draw so near to the Lord that we can hear his voice. We would not be punished for that!

Isaiah heard a call from the divine for someone to respond to the call for someone to be sent and communicate the divine message of God’s pleading with erring humanity. He answered the call, and said, “Here am I, send me”. That call for messengers to carry the good news of God’s love and mercy is still being issued. Each one of us here can answer that call and become a blessing right where we are.

It is easy to be caught up in the whirlpool of worldly change. I think of this as I remember how I felt upon hearing of the death of two of our presidents. It was not unlike the prophet Isaiah’s troubled mind. The first was the death of President Roosevelt in March of 1945. As a 15 year old kid delivering the afternoon newspaper, I was told of his passing by one of my customers, Mrs. Nevins on Moss St. in Hudson Falls. World War II was still raging. Who would now lead us? I felt like one on board a ship that had no captain, no helmsman, and no rudder.

Similar feelings returned in November 1963. I had just stepped out of our front door in Mt. Ephraim, NJ when my neighbor across the street shouted over to me, My God, they have just shot the president”. I shouted back and asked,” What president”? Mrs. Jones said, our president”! That same emptiness, the feeling of this can’t be real, flooded my mind. The weekend following the death of President Kennedy was one the most emotionally packed we ever experienced.

In both cases, change came swiftly and unexpectedly. We do not know what changes await our nation, good or bad. The one thing stabilizing this that we are assured of is that God does not change. He is still on his throne. He has not abdicated nor given his scepter to another. We can trust him completely, even though all else around us falls apart. We have a changeless God in a changing world.

This truth has been confirmed through many generations. Moses led Israel for forty years right up to the borders of the Promised Land. Death overtook him. The responsibility for conquering and settling Israel into its new environs fell on the shoulders of Joshua. He needed assurance from God, despite the change in leadership, with the so called “untimely death” of their leader. Would the God of Heaven direct and equip him to fulfill task?

The answer came in Joshua 1:5-8:

There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life; as I was with Moses, so will I be with thee; I will not fail thee, or forsake thee.

Be strong and of good courage, for unto this people thou shalt divide for an inheritance the land, which I swear unto their fathers to give them.

Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest….

“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” The words are herein emphasized, “I will be with you, I will not fail you, I will not forsake you.” He was promised a prosperous way and success.”

Our Lord was about ready to ascend to heaven. His disciples had been in Jesus care and company for three years. What would happen to them now with His departure? He declared He would not leave them as orphans. He would send another Comforter, the Holy Spirit. His presence would be brought to them through the person and the power of the Holy Spirit. His unchanging presence would abide with them in an ever changing world. That promise of his never failing presence is further supported by the message found in Matthew 28:20. “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

James 1:17 states this truth profoundly: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no variableness or shadow of turning.” God does not vary from day to day, or year to year or century to century or millennia to millennia. He has no shady side, no dark side to his personality. He is forever the same.

Nothing could be more fitting in concluding this message than to read the 23rd Psalm.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his namesake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou prepares a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; My cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Lloyd Douglas was the author of that famed book, made into film, “The Robe.” When Lloyd was in college he lived in a boarding house. His room was on the second floor. There was an elderly man who lived below him om first floor. He was confined to a wheel chair. In order to make sure that this older man was cared for every day, Lloyd, on his way to the college, would stop on first floor and knock on his door, then enter in. The conversation would go like this; Lloyd asking, “How are things today?” The aged man would pick up his little metal musical triangle and strike it against the arm of his wheelchair. As it rang out the old man said, “That is middle “C”, it was middle “C” yesterday, it is middle “C” today and it will be be middle “C” tomorrow. The piano here is out of tune. The man next door sings a half note flat. This triangle will always be middle “C”. Friends, no matter what happens, you can depend on Hebrews 13: 8 “Jesus Christ the same, yesterday, today, and forever”. “He don’t never change!)

We have an unchanging God in the midst of a rapidly changing world. It is time for us to eavesdrop on heaven and get first hand word as to what really is going on in heaven and on earth!

The Reverend Almon Bartholomew, former Superintendent, NYAG, with wife Joyce.

"He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God." (Psalm 40:3). And this is the hymn he gave me: Oh, precious Lord our Savior, Be with us through this day; and keep your hand upon us, each thing we do and say. For we are but your children, and need your guiding hand, to keep us safely moving, through out this sin-filled land. Your love is more than money, your trust is more than fame, your present help each morning more precious than acclaim. Our lives last but a moment, our dreams are for a day, we need you close beside us, our help along the way. This world is bent and broken, it needs the word, yes you! So help us Lord to start now to win a soul for you. To thy great list be added a former sinner's name, and thine shalt be the honor, the glory and the fame.