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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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Christian Living

Why are You Standing There Staring?

Acts 1.11.JPG

Acts 1:11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven

In Acts 1:9-11 we see the story of Jesus’ Ascension into heaven after 40 days ministering on Earth after His Resurrection.  Jesus and His disciples had gone to The Mount of Olives, where they spent one last time together, talking and teaching. Here, the disciples had asked Jesus if this was the time when He would restore the Kingdom to Israel. His answer was interesting.

He simply replied that it was really not something they needed to worry about. It was not for them to “know the times or the seasons.” Then in Verse 8 of the passage, He made the promise of the power of the Holy Spirit to them and that they would later be His witnesses to the world.

Then they observed Jesus ascending physically, bodily into the skies until He was finally obscured by some clouds. As the disciples stood there staring(likely with their mouths hanging open), two angels appeared and issued the statement we see in Verse 11 of the text.

The question the angels asked seems important; they asked the disciples why they were just standing there gazing. Jesus had already told them what was coming. They were to return to and stay in Jerusalem. They were to await the empowering of the Holy Spirit. Finally, they were to go into the world and be His witnesses throughout their community and the world itself. They disciples had their marching orders, and those orders were not to stand there doing nothing and debating about His return.

The angels informed them that Jesus would return someday just as He left. Jesus himself had told them already the when of His return was of no importance to them.

There are takeaways for us here as well. Are we standing there staring up into heaven, so to speak? Are we so preoccupied with that and when it will be that we have forgotten we still have a mission to carry out here? We, too are to be His witnesses in “Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

So, let’s quit staring into heaven and get busy!

 

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Have We Wiped Out Our Caananites?

Deuteronomy 7 4.5.JPG

Deuteronomy 7:4-5 For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire

Reading Deuteronomy Chapter 7, we can see that The Lord gave pretty clear instruction to the Israelites as to how they were to deal with the people in the lands they were about to be given. Some of what we read may seem disturbing and harsh to us today, but God had very clear reasons for His instructions. He knew what would happen if any remnants of the inhabitants of the conquered land or their ways remained when His people occupied the land. He knows that any influence from the Canaanites would cause the people to turn from the one true God to the idols and ways of the Canaanites.

Of course, God was right. The Israelites failed to eradicate all of the inhabitants of the land and their ways, and time and time again this caused them to fall away from God and incur His wrath and anger. And the reason all the inhabitants of the land were not destroyed is that the people made conscious decisions to allow them to remain.

When we are saved, we need to follow a similar pattern in our lives as we eradicate the sin in our lives. The Canaanites are somewhat a picture of our sinful lifestyles; we have to make a conscious decision to blot them from our lives. Will we wake up the day after we are saved and be sinless? Of course not! God didn’t expect His people to deal with the people of Canaan all at once either. They were to deal with them town by town, piece by piece. But the important thing was that they were to not allow remnants to stay in their midst.

We, just like the Israelites, choose to leave little pockets of bad behavior in our lives. We do this for many reasons; we do it because we think we can manage it, and we do it because we like it.

We have to wipe out the things from our past that are our problem sin; if we allow them to remain, they will return and haunt us. If drinking was your problem, why are you hanging out with your old friends at the bar? If sexual temptation was your problem, why are you watching that show or reading that magazine? If laziness and sloth was your problem, why are you laying on the couch watching TV? The list of possible questions goes on and on.

We have to wipe our Canaanites; if we do not, then they will certainly emerge from the tiny pockets we left them in and turn us away from our God.

All Of Your Ways

Proverbs 3 5.6.JPG

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

This particular Proverb is often quoted by people as one that provides comfort and illustrates how God oversees and directs our lives; and it should be, as that is exactly what it illustrates to us.

On the other hand, there are large numbers of people who fail to see and feel the guiding hand of God in their lives, and then question God as to why and even hold it against Him.

What we sometimes fail to see is that this Proverb has two parts; it is a conditional statement. If we want to see the realization of one part of God’s Word, we have to meet the requirements of another part; this Proverb is a great example of that.

“If” we acknowledge Him in all of our ways, then He will direct our paths. In other words, as normal, God has to be the focus rather than us. When we expect God’s guidance and hand in our lives but offer nothing in return, then it only becomes another sad example of our faith being man-centered rather than God-centered. What, then, does it mean to acknowledge Him in all of your ways?

Its like a sport in some ways; we only have to get back to the basics:

  • Are you saved? If you aren’t, your sin has you separated from God, both in this life and eternally. Until that gulf is crossed by the restorative work of Jesus Christ, God cannot direct your paths.
  • Do you read and study God’s Word daily? If we aren’t seeking His revealed will from His Word, why would we expect any special guidance and direction?
  • Do we pray, meditate and spend alone time with God daily? Seeking His guidance means seeking His will. We can only know His will if we know Him. Study and prayer are the ways we accomplish that.
  • Are we striving to live like Jesus and for Jesus? It seems that if we are constantly out of line with the life He would have us live, that His efforts will be solely devoted to getting us back in line. Once again, why would He share with us His special guidance if we aren’t even following His specific guidance?

Become saved by the Grace of God through Jesus Christ. Read, study and meditate daily. Spend time in prayer and communion with God daily. Do these things and acknowledge Him in all of your ways, and He will direct your paths.

 

Carrying Your Tent Peg

tabernacle

Numbers 4:29-33
As for the sons of Merari, thou shalt number them after their families, by the house of their fathers;
From thirty years old and upward even unto fifty years old shalt thou number them, every one that entereth into the service, to do the work of the tabernacle of the congregation.
And this is the charge of their burden, according to all their service in the tabernacle of the congregation; the boards of the tabernacle, and the bars thereof, and the pillars thereof, and sockets thereof,
And the pillars of the court round about, and their sockets, and their pins, and their cords, with all their instruments, and with all their service: and by name ye shall reckon the instruments of the charge of their burden.
This is the service of the families of the sons of Merari, according to all their service, in the tabernacle of the congregation, under the hand of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest.

 

Numbers 4:1-4
And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
Take the sum of the sons of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, after their families, by the house of their fathers,
From thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old, all that enter into the host, to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation.
This shall be the service of the sons of Kohath in the tabernacle of the congregation, about the most holy things:

 

Just some brief data about the Tabernacle here:

  • External Courtyard 150 x 75 feet. Outer walls 7 feet high.
  • Tabernacle tent itself. 45 x 15 feet, covered by an external tent structure.
  • Made of animal skins, ropes, poles and pegs, really a huge tent.
  • The Israelites were led by the Shekinah Cloud of Glory by day and the pillar of fire by night. When the cloud or pillar moved, so did the camp
  • It would have taken many wagons, oxen, and men to move all of the different parts of the Tabernacle, and God as was His habit, specifically assigned duties to different people. They did not simply pick and choose who did what, God assigned it.

 

That is even how it is today, God has a plan for all of us, every single one of us. This plan is specific to each of us and includes the tiniest details of our lives. God made this plan for each of us in eternity past and knows how us following or not following His plan will affect His ultimate plan for eternity future. And yes, we can exercise our God-given free will and choose not to follow His plan for our lives.

Some of us are Kohathites and some of us are Merarites. That is, in the service of God, some of us get to do the “important” jobs and some of us get to do the “Not so important” jobs. That was also the case for the Israelites as they wandered the desert for 40 years, One of the assigned responsibilities of the sons of Kohath was to carry the Ark of the Covenant, and lead the procession as the people moved from one place to another. The sons of Mera were assigned to carry the frames of the Tabernacle: the ropes, bases, and tent pegs. There is little doubt that carrying the Ark of the Covenant was seen as much more glamorous and “important” than carrying a tiny little tent peg!

The 4 men who each carried the four corners of the Ark of the Covenant were literally one in a million men, while men who merely carried tent pegs may have been barely noticed as they trudged through their lives diligently doing their duty and carrying their tent peg.

Imagine being Joe the Merarite, carrying your little unimportant tent peg year after year for forty years of wandering in the desert. Imagine packing up your peg year after year after year as the Tabernacle was moved from on place to the next as the Pillar of Fire moved. Imagine seeing how everybody noticed and fawned over the men carrying the Ark, or the altars or the contents of the tabernacle such as the lampstands and so forth.

It’s easy to imagine how Joe the Merarite might feel or what he might say as time marched on and he carried his little unimportant tent peg. “This tent peg can’t be very important, there are dozens of them!”,;” Why hasn’t Aaron the Priest ever come by and patted me on the back?”: “Look how everybody notices Bob the Kohathite and his stupid Ark!” It’s easy to see how over years Joe could become disillusioned.

What if Joe just got fed up one day and decided he was simply done carrying that little tent peg? It’s easy to picture one day as, the Pillar of Fire moved onward signifying that the camp was to move, that Joe the Merarite might just say to himself that he might just sleep in that day, since nobody would even miss his little unimportant tent peg. It’s easy to imagine the whole camp packing up, traveling through the desert, and setting up wherever the Pillar of Fire settled down. But, what might have happened when the Camp arrived at the new location, set everything in place, and then discovered that all was ready except for that one little, unimportant tent peg? Is it possible that the entire congregation might have been prevented from properly worshipping God just because of one small tent peg? After all, the design of the Tabernacle was very specific, down to the smallest detail; the truth is, without that one little unimportant tent peg the Tabernacle was in fact not complete the way God designed it.

Are you called to carry an Ark or a tent peg? Are you called to Preach? Are you called to sing in the Choir? Are you called to teach Sunday School? Are you called to clean the Sanctuary after Sunday service? Are you called to mow the Churchyard? Are you called to clean the bathrooms? Not everyone is called to carry an Ark. Some of us may spend years doing no more than carrying a tent peg.

But, whatever it is we have each been called to do, every task is ordained and designed by God. Each and every task is part of God’s design and the Tabernacle we call our Church is not complete without every single component in place. And, without every single component in its proper place, God’s design for our worship is not complete. What that means to us in our everyday lives of Christian service is that, whatever we have been called to do, every job is important. In fact, no job, no matter how “important” or “not so important” is actually of equal importance in the eyes of God. And we are to do our called and assigned tasks for as long as God requires it of us and to the best of our ability for that assigned duration

Taking Off Your Uniform

 

 

2 Kings 5:9-11

“So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.”

The full story for the background for this article can be found in 2 Kings 5, but we will briefly recap it here. Naaman, the Syrian General, had been afflicted with leprosy and was, of course, desperate for a cure. Word came to Naaman that the great Prophet of the Jews, Elisha, could cure him of his disease. As befitting a great general, Naaman showed up at Elisha’s home complete with Chariot and entourage, like the great man he was back in Syria.

We all know the story. Elisha didn’t even go outside to greet the great general; he simply sent a messenger out and told Naaman basically, “Go wash in the Jordan river, and you will be clean.” That was simple and with no fanfare at all. Needless to say, Naaman was greatly insulted, as he expected some great miracle from the Prophet. Naaman surely thought Elisha would come to the door, make a big greeting and perform some showy ritual for the big General. Elisha did not so Naaman stormed home in a huff basically. Of course, he was still leprous!

It was not until later in the passage, when Naaman’s servants spoke with him, that he changed his thoughts about what had happened. They pointed out to him, basically, that if Elisha had asked him to do some great thing that made him look good he would have done it; yet he had refused to do this simple thing that only glorified God.

Are we like that? Do we make a pretense of seeking what God wants, but what we really seek is the thing that preserves our status in our own eyes? Are we willing to “Take off our uniform?” Are we truly willing to humble ourselves and submit to the will of God, even when it doesn’t make us look good?

Naaman finally did humble himself and submit and was healed of his leprosy. We too might find that if we humble ourselves and submit we would also be healed of the diseases that afflict us: sin, death and lack of joy among them.

Faith In Action-Righteous Prayers

faith in action

James 5:15-20

And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.


Read all of James Chapter 5 here

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Here things seemingly get complicated. What does sin, faith, and Elijah all have to do with any of this? Well, here go my thoughts for what they are worth.

Why are they praying about this man’s sin? Maybe he is sick because he sinned. I don’t know. Even if this man’s sin had not made him sick, we all know one important thing: sin is an impediment to our prayers to God. Even if our malady is not caused by sin, it is simply a good practice to seek forgiveness for our sins before talking to God. Even though we may be forgiven the penalty for our sin, the presence of unresolved sins in our lives still hinders our fellowship with God.

It is important that we pray with the full faith that God will, in fact, answer our prayer. If we pray without granting God ultimate power to accomplish anything He wants to, we should not expect answers.

We have to pray in God’ will. This may be an illustration again of the presence of the Elders in the life of this ailing person. How do we learn God’s will? A knowledge of God’s will is a learned thing. We come to understand it through prayer, study, and meditation. Certainly a case could be made that the prayers of the Elders, while not necessarily more effective than the prayers of other believers, might be grounded in a better understanding of what God’s will might be in a situation.

If there was ever a many tuned into the will of God, Elijah would have been one. I can only imagine this great man of God, praying for the rain with great faith and great understanding of what God was trying to accomplish. Elijah prayed that a drought be ended and the rains given, and it happened! Clearly, Elijah was both fervent and effectual in his prayer, and his prayer was answered.


Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.

Finally, James closes his Epistle in a way we would certainly expect. The entire theme of James’ writing has been about the demonstration of true, saving faith. James has attempted to teach us that while what we do never saves us, what we do certainly provides the evidence and reality of our salvation. Who is the warning in the last few verses intended for? Given the overall tone of James’ writing, I think this is a warning to those who may be backsliding into a life of sin. He has spent an entire book warning what true faith looks like, so this seems to fit.

We certainly have a responsibility to an erring brother or sister, and it may be as important as our responsibility to win the lost.

Blessings and hope that you have enjoyed our trip through the Book of James.

Faith In Action-Who’s Doing the Healing? And What’s With the Oil?

faith in action

James 5:14-16

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.


Read all of James Chapter 5 here

Given the likely timing of this Epistle, it is very possible that the gifts of healing were still widespread and common at the time of its writing. That would make it possible that the Elders were to be called for the simple reason that they had been gifted with special powers to heal on The Lord’s behalf. Given that the sign gifts were primarily designed to establish the authority of the representatives of Jesus on the Earth and not simply for the sheer sake of healing itself, I don’t see that to be the case here; however, I certainly don’t dismiss it either.

Let us have a look at some issues and questions. Is this person sick because they don’t have enough faith in their prayers to have an effect? I would disagree totally with that and further say the telling anyone they are not healed because of their lack of faith is quite damaging. Is the healing discussed because of the extraordinary faith of the elders? I say no on that one as well.

We discussed earlier the fact that God has never stopped being God. He can do anything, at any time, and that would include things which might be considered miracles to us. But the key point is: Who did it? Well, God of course. That has always been the case and is the case even if He uses a representative to do it. It has always been, and always will be, God doing the healing and not man.

So, what is with the oil anyway? Some things to quickly note here. The anointing is being done in the ailing person’s home, and not with the congregation. So James is not trying to teach us that anointing with oil is some rite or ritual we are to practice. Really, it seems far simpler than all of that. Applying oil to the sick was simply part of what was, at the time, modern medical treatment. It is more or less what we should do today if we are sick: see a doctor and pray for God to heal!

Faith In Action-Why Call the Elders?

faith in action

James 5:14,15

Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.


Read all of James Chapter 5 here

Previously we discussed the idea of an afflicted or ill person bearing some responsibility for getting him or herself assistance when they need it; they are to call the elders, and furthermore, the elders are to respond.

This is not the place to discuss the particulars of who the elders of any particular church are, or exactly what the word represents. Elders, deacons, pastors: the name used matters not nearly so much as what they represent.

Some might say the reason for calling the elders is because they have some special authority granted to have a special pipeline to God for the healing the sick. I personally don’t see this as being the case, now allow me to explain. Regardless of how we see the definition of the name elder, it is evident that the word is being used to represent those in the church who are spiritually mature and full of Godly wisdom. The question, then, becomes why that matters!

Why is this person sick? We don’t see the answer in concrete, but we can see some possibilities from context. We have been discussing the trials and pressures placed on those who live the Christian life. Perhaps this person was not so much sick as simply exhausted and worn out from the trials. Perhaps they are just wearied in their Christian life to the point where they have become ill. Who better, then, to provide comfort and guidance on how to recover from this malady than those who are mature and may have lived these very issues themselves.

It may be possible that this illness has come about as a result of some sin. Does our sin always result in illness? Absolutely not. Can our sin result in illness? Absolutely. Do we know that this is happening here? Not really. But, if sin is a factor, then perhaps what we see here is simply some church discipline going on. If not, then still who better to help a believer work through an issue such as this than those who are more mature and experienced?

Isn’t this simple thought true in all of our lives? The Christian walk can be a tough one at times and may take us to the point of exhaustion and even illness. Some may be new and unseasoned believers when exposed to all of this. Rather than just suffering in silence and perhaps falling away, we should seek those who can help us. Those of who are blessed with wisdom and experience should be ready always to help those who need it.

Faith In Action-Sick? Call for Help

faith in action

James 5:14

Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:


Read all of James Chapter 5 here

Have you ever noticed that your pastor is a very busy man? Most are. Have you ever seen or heard a situation where a person got their feelings hurt because they felt ignored when a need presented itself?

We don’t necessarily see just why the person in this passage is sick. As with most of this passage, there is more than a substantial discussion about it. He may be simply sick. It may be that the trials and persecutions discussed previously have worn the person down to the point that they have become sick. They may even be sick as a result of sin.

The whys of the sickness don’t really matter as much as the reaction. Note here one very important thought, and the answer to this question: Who called for the elders? Correct, the person suffering the illness called. Why does that matter?

It matters because our Pastors, Elders/Deacons, cannot be all places at all times, nor are they all knowing. We certainly bear some responsibility to communicate our needs to our brothers and sisters in Christ. What a shame to be suffering from some great need and it not be met simply because nobody knew

Additionally, look at the reaction once a summons is made. The elders come; they respond to this expressed need. People gather to meet the need once it has been expressed.

This may not be the primary point of this passage, but it is certainly one we can make. We are to be there for each other. We should communicate our needs to those who can help us. If we are not the suffering ones, we should pray for, assist, and uplift those among us who are in need, whether physical or emotional.

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