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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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Follow Me-Burn Your Oxen

1 Kings 19:21 

And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.

1 Kings 19:15-21

As we read this story, we see the great Prophet Elijah nearing the end of his ministry; in fact, he had been commanded by God to pass his mantle on the man God had selected to be his successor, Elisha. Elijah did as he was told, and encountered the future prophet Elisha plowing his fields, and cast his mantle upon him. In this way, he signified the calling of Elisha. The mantle or cape of a prophet was a sign of his station; Elisha would have known immediately what the casting of it on him meant.

Elisha was plowing with a 12 yoke of oxen. This would be in today’s frame of reference, the biggest, fanciest combine a farmer could buy. Elisha was NOT some small time farmer; he had stuff and was likely not a poor man. He was also a gainfully employed, very busy man. The future prophet was not looking for something to do; he had plenty to do.

Notice how Elisha had to run after Elijah. Elijah didn’t wait around talking, he just tossed the cape and kept on going. Elisha understood and had a decision to make. He immediately ran after Elijah and asked to tell his mother and father goodbye. He did just that apparently. He also did far more than that; he burned his oxen, his plow and all of his equipment. Clearly, Elisha was never going back; he was committed!

When God calls us, do we turn our back on what and who we were and answer? Nobody is suggesting we necessarily burn our house down, or set fire to our car; the thought, however, remains the same. Too often we “follow” God but keep a handy back up plan in place in case things don’t work out. If the calling is a true one, we don’t NEED a backup plan. If we answer, God will equip and provide.

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Follow Me-A Judge With Issues

Read the full story of Samson here

Hebrews 11:32-34

And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

Well, Samson is certainly an interesting story, isn’t he? If one reads the thoughts of writers and commentators on Samson, you can actually find quite a bit of controversy. In fact, folks are pretty harsh on Samson, and many question his status as a man of faith at all. So, let’s dispel that thought right away; Samson is found in Hebrews 11 among those listed as men and women of faith. God inspired the writer of that book to put him there. God knows the heart of man, and God put Samson on that list. That really settles it, don’t you think?

It’s odd, but we don’t see Samson actually communicating with God directly until the end of his story; that certainly seems to cast doubts as to his faith. His call seems not to have come directly to him, but to his mother. As was typical, the Israelites had turned away from God and were being chastised once again. In this case, it was the Philistines. God, knowing they would need a rescuer, called Samson before he was even born to be the one to deliver them from the hand of their oppressors. The Angel of the Lord appeared to the wife of Samson’s father, Manoah the Danite, with the following:

Judges 13:1-5 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years. And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son. Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing: For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.

God called Samson, and God had a plan for him. I can’t help but think Samson knew all of this; that seems pretty self-evident, as his mother certainly would have shared with him what had happened to her. Samson would have been raised in a household of faith, understood what his God was about and understood the role God had called him for.

That didn’t seem to help much, did it? We don’t need to recount all of the sordid details here, but sordid they are. Samson’s list of transgressions is long, for sure. He disrespected his parents, he broke his Nazarite vows over and over, he chased women including prostitutes, he reacted out of anger, he killed, he was prideful of his strength and prowess and the list goes on and on.

There’s only a couple of brief thoughts I would offer here in regards to the life of Samson, as to really explore him would take an entire series.

First, God was not clueless about the nature of the man He himself had created. While this is no excuse for behavior that is offensive to God, God uses all things for His good and His sovereign plan. That includes even our flaws and mistakes. We see this in chapter 14 when Samson went to his parents regarding marrying the Philistine woman he had become smitten with. First, the Jews just weren’t supposed to marry gentiles, much less a woman of the enemy. Second, he disregarded the good advice of his parents. Under the absolute domination of his hormones and fleshly desires, Samson did what he always did: what he wanted, when he wanted, and how he wanted. It did not end well. Pride was hurt, violence ensued and folks died. Specifically, Philistines died. When God allowed this to happen, he was laying the groundwork for Samson to exercise God’s judgment on the Philistines.

Judges 14:2-4 King And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

Samson certainly did his job well. Philistines continued to die at an alarming rate, he was betrayed multiple times by both a woman and his own people. Ultimately he ended up in the hands of the Philistines with his eyes gouged out grinding grain. What a sad ending right? No, we know the story didn’t end there. Samson finished well. Despite his failures as a man, despite his failures to adhere to the law he had been given, despite his failure in all the works he wrought with his own hand, in the end, Samson finished well. They brought him out before the Philistine elites in the Temple of their god, Dagon, to mock and humiliate him before all the people…some 3000 of the who’s who of the Philistines.

Judges 16:27-30 Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport. And Samson called unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.

Friends, Samson believed God, and his inclusion in Hebrews 11 tells us that this was credited to him for righteousness. This in no way teaches us that we can just do as we wish for our lives, as that would be a serious presumption on God’s grace. But it does teach that we can’t earn that grace and that no one is outside the reach of that grace. In the end, Samson did what really matters. He believed God. Have you?

 

 

 

 

Follow Me-Jesus Calls a Harlot

Most of us are familiar with the story of Rahab the harlot. If readers want a refresher, read the story beginning Here. Jericho, where Rahab lived, was right in the path the Israelites were to take after crossing the Jordan River as they began their march into and conquest of the promised land. Joshua had sent two men into Jericho to spy and gather intelligence about the city prior to the arrival of the Israelite army. Rahab, a local prostitute, hid the spies from the authorities, protected them, and aided them in accomplishing their mission and escaping.

As we all know, Jericho was ultimately destroyed by the advancing Israelites, while Rahab and her family were spared. So, this is a good time to cover what, to some, is an offensive episode in the Bible. In fact, it is among the episodes described in Scripture often cited to justify non-belief in God. After all, what kind of god could do such a thing? So, let’s take an honest look at what happened. In a nutshell, the city was completely destroyed by the Israelite armies, and every living person in it was killed.(With a few exceptions, as we will see.) This cannot really be sugarcoated, as those are the facts as presented in the Bible.

Was God just and fair? Of course, He was, as God is always just and His ways are always fair. The truth is, Jericho was a hotbed of pagan idol worship, in particular, the goddess Ashtaroth who was the moon Goddess. This was a pagan, evil city which had rejected God and was deserving of His judgment.

So, of course, the question arises: How is it fair to destroy all of those people who had never even had the chance to come to know God? After all, no missionary or preacher had ever come to them and told them, right? Let’s take a look at Rahab, then.

Rahab lived in the city also. Obviously, the march of the Israelites was well known, as Rahab mentioned the citizens knowing of them since the crossing of the Red Sea 40 years previously. So, Rahab, as well as everyone else, knew all about them. Jericho was a thoroughly pagan city, coming to a different belief system than that was no doubt extremely difficult. Finally, Rahab had no first-hand information from a believer concerning the One True God. Yet, she said the following to the spies in Joshua 2:11 “And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.”

Notice something very important there; everyone was scared, but not all honestly sought and came to believe. Rahab didn’t know much, and she certainly had no proof. What she did have was a choice, and she made the choice to act by faith. Guess what? Her faith saved her, literally and spiritually.

Who all heard the news in that city? Everyone. Who chose to act in faith and believe? Rahab and her family. Here is another thought. God knew there were a woman and family in that town honestly seeking after Him. Remember how Jericho was destroyed? It just fell down. Those spies were not needed! Here is some food for thought: maybe those spies weren’t sent to spy, but to be witnesses to Rahab of the true God. She honestly sought Him, and He sent somebody to her.

God still does that today. I know of a missionary who answered a call from God to go to Mongolia and preach the gospel. Why Mongolia of all places? Maybe there was a Rahab there, maybe there was some single person who was honestly seeking the knowledge of God. Now guess what? There is a man there ready to tell that person all about Jesus.

Friends, God is calling. We aren’t all called by a burning bush, or by a visit from the Angel of the Lord. Some of us have far less than that. Some of us have only the innate knowledge we have of God and our own conscience. Rahab didn’t have much, but she responded. If you are reading this, you know far more than she knew. What is YOUR response?

Follow Me-A Scared Warrior of God

Well, here we go again! As was so typical during the time of the Judges in Israel, the nation had slipped off into sin and rebellion against God. As was also typical, God removed His protection from them, and their enemies executed God’s judgment on them. As is further typical, they eventually realized what was going on, cried out to God in belief to save them, and He sent a rescuer. This is where Gideon shows up.

Judges 6:11

And there came an angel of the Lord, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.

Judges 8:28

Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon.

Read Judges Chapter 6 here

Read Judges Chapter 7 here

Read Judges Chapter 8 here

In between those two passages a whole lot of story took place, and we really don’t have time and space to talk about it in detail. Read the story, though, as it is quite a read.

What’s the back story here? Well, the Midianites, in loose alliances with a bunch of other “ites,” were constantly raiding the farms and settlements of the Israelites and stealing their stuff. The people were scared to put it bluntly. So, in the midst of this, we have poor Gideon threshing wheat by the winepress. Threshing wheat requires some things to be done effectively. Among things of note would be a prominent place, probably on a hill, with a good breeze and some infrastructure to make it easier. These things are all needed to be able to stir up the wheat, let the chaff blow away and reclaim the wheat kernels for use. Yet, here we see Gideon and crew down by the winepress, behind an oak tree, striving strenuously to thresh that wheat. It may be they simply didn’t have much to thresh. It may be they ran up the hill with small loads to frantically toss them in the air. Either way, their fear had driven them to conduct their threshing operation in a really inconvenient way.

Then this:

Judges 6:12 And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.

Can you say irony? I actually chuckle each and every time I read that verse because on the surface it seems absurd. Obviously, Gideon was NOT a great man of valor, because he was hiding by the winepress trying to thresh wheat!

Friends, I won’t even try to really dig into this whole story; you can all read it for yourselves. That verse, while seeming absurd on the surface, actually illustrates a wonderful lesson to us all.

God knows who we are and what we can do. God knows the end from the beginning and knew that, in the God view of time, Gideon WAS a great man of valor. It became so when God stated it. As the saying goes, “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.” All that had to take place was for Gideon to answer that call. He did. Will we?

Gideon had great faith. Many seem to dwell on Gideon’s asking for signs from God as a sign of weakness, but that is probably a bit harsh. Signs are a way back then for one claiming to be a messenger of God to prove his bona fides, so to speak. Once the deal was settled, Gideon moved forward in faith and executed just what God said, even when the direction must have seemed simply crazy.

Gideon understood very precisely the role he had played in the great victory the Israelites ultimately won over their oppressors:

Judges 8:22-23  Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you.

We can get trapped after great success to want to pat ourselves on the back and tell ourselves we are wonderful. Especially when every around us is telling is that. Gideon clearly understood what his role had been here, and offered the glory of the success back to the One who gave it. That’s a good thing for us each to remember when we start to get full of ourselves.

My friends, God has a call of each of us. If you are lost, He is calling you to salvation. If you are saved, He has a work for you. It may seem overwhelming, and impossible to accomplish. Those things may be true if it were just up to us. It’s not, however; the strength to do what says comes from God, and He secures the victory.

Follow Me-Andrew Who?

Matthew 4:18-22

And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.

Andrew who? What do we know about Andrew, really? Andrew and his brother, Peter, were born in the city of Bethsaida(John 1:44) and at some point moved their fishing operation to the city of Capernaum. This is where we see Jesus call Andrew and his brother Peter, and the brothers John and James to leave their fishing behind and become fishers of men instead.

Like the other fishing partners and friends, we know that the above was not the first encounter these men had with  Jesus. They had seemingly at some point been disciples of John the Baptist, left John’s fold to follow Jesus, then returned to their fishing business until called later by Jesus to come with Him.

In fact, it seems Andrew was the very first Apostle Jesus called to follow Him. We see that account here:

John 1:35-40  Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.

Being first is pretty special if you think about it. Not only was Andrew the first, but he was likely part of the inner circle of Jesus composed of Peter, Andrew, John, and James. Yet we see relatively little of Andrew after this initial meeting with Jesus. Sometimes when mention is made of the inner circle, Andrew is actually left out. Outside of various lists of the Apostles as a group, Andrew merits less than ten mentions in all of the New Testament, and then it is mostly simply that: a mention.

Andrew who? As the story of Jesus ministry unfolds, we see quite a bit of drama unfold around the two sets of brothers. Of course, we all know of Peter: brave, reckless at times, outspoken to a fault and clearly the leader of the Apostles. We see John and James, the “Sons of thunder,” complete with their own drama. They clearly wanted to be leaders, as we see them embroiled in arguments about who was to be the greatest among them.(Luke 9:46). They both actually came to Jesus asking for a special place. (Mark 10:35-40) In one account of the previous, they even brought their mother along! (Matthew 20)John was worried about what Peter was going to do in the Kingdom.(John 21:21) John and James asked Jesus to destroy a city that did not receive them. (Luke 9:50-56)

Andrew was intimately in the midst of men who were very concerned about where they fit, their importance and their position. Yet, where is Andrew? Andrew who?

We might ask: what is the big deal about Andrew? Let’s pick up the story of his call at the at the preaching of John the Baptist and see what happens:

John 1:40-42  One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

Andrew had no time for drama; Andrew had things to do. The Bible never addresses this, but it must have been difficult for Andrew, living in the shadow of his more outspoken and strident brother. I think that is common in the world of brothers. He must have been used to Peter jumping in and taking his stuff so to speak. Here he was, the very first disciple of the Messiah; this was a chance for him to be special.

That’s not what happened, is it? No doubt Andrew loved his brother. He loved him so much that he immediately ran off the tell Peter the wonderful news. That’s what Andrew did. He introduced people to Jesus. We see that again in John 12:20-22, when two Gentiles ask to meet Jesus; it was Andrew who introduced them.

Friends, this is what evangelism is really about. Personal contact and witnessing are what brings people to Jesus. Of course, hearing the Gospel preached does, but most only ever hear that as a result of some person personally introducing them to the church and to Jesus; few would ever hear the Gospel preached if some person had not invited them to do so.

Just remember this, when you feel your role as a personal evangelist is insignificant as you watch some rock star evangelist bring thousands to Jesus: each of the greats was personally ministered to by one we may have barely heard of. Who can tell me who Edward Kimball was?

 

Follow Me-Jesus Calls a Tax Collector

Matthew 9:9-10

And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.

So, there was Matthew, sitting in the tax booth. Let’s break that down a little bit. Matthew’s business was run in the seaside city of Capernaum, where Jesus preached and even lived off an on during his earthly ministry. While the text doesn’t say exactly what Matthew(also called Levi,) was collecting, it’s likely he was collecting taxes related to commerce in that city. It may have been taxes and fees on fishing commerce, dock fees, or any number of things.

The account is fairly simple in its description of what happened, but there is likely more to the story than that. Jesus has lived and preached in Capernaum, so at a minimum Matthew had heard him preach; he may have already been a believer in the Messiah. Again, we can’t say for sure.

As a tax collector, Matthew had issues, to say the least. Matthew would have had societal issues, as tax collectors were hated by the Jews more than any group of people. While the Romans were certainly hated, the tax collectors who collaborated with them were hated even more. It’s very telling that in the accounts of Matthew’s call, we see the phrase, “publicans and sinners,” used several times. What sort of person has an entire category of badness assigned to them? One has sinners, and then one has publicans. Sinners on steroids so to speak. As a Roman collaborator, Matthew would have been ostracized and even excluded from normal Jewish society. He likely was no longer even allowed in the Synagogue, as his status as a tax collector made him unclean. It was about as likely to have a pork BBQ in the synagogue as it was to see a tax collector there.

In reality, Matthew probably was a bad man. That was the nature of tax collection. He would have already “purchased” the right to collect taxes by bidding for and paying the tax for in his area of responsibility in advance. What happened after that would determine the success of his business. He could go bust, break even, or make a profit by collecting revenue above and beyond what he had paid. He had the full backing of Roman law and Roman law enforcement to make this happen. I have heard tax operation in Roman territories as similar to a Mafi operation. Matthew was a bad man, for sure.

Yet, when Jesus called, Matthew followed. Why? What was in his head? Was he tired of being on the outside of society looking in? Had his heart been pricked by the preaching of Jesus, place him under conviction and convinced him of his need to repent and believe? Was he perhaps a nominal disciple before Jesus called him? That is all hard to say, but fun to think about. What really matters is what happened next.

While in his own account, Matthew just relays it as he followed Jesus, we see additional verbiage elsewhere. Luke reports, “And he left all, rose up, and followed him” (Luke 5:28). Did you catch that? Matthew left all. We don’t know if he literally just bailed out on his tax operation, or made arrangements to leave things in good hands. We do know that at that moment Matthew turned his back on his previous life and began a new one. He would never go back to what he was, as that’s just not how things worked; his career as a tax collector was finished. This thing that has likely generated some wealth for him was finished.

Matthew told his friends! In both the Mark and Luke accounts that Matthew hosted a big feast in his home and celebrated with his new Lord and his old friends. What did Matthew tell them? What did Jesus tell them? What did they all think about what was going on? All that is fun to think about, but what really matters is what Matthew did; he told it. He knew what had happened to him, he was excited about it, and he told it.

After this, we don’t really hear anything else from Matthew. Of course, his Gospel account is a pretty big deal, but he never seems to leap into any position of leadership, prominence or note during the rest of Jesus’ ministry. How many of us would give up our entire lives only to fade into the background? How many of us would even give up half of what he did to follow Jesus?

The Lord calls people today, as His work still continues. I can’t imagine Matthew the tax collector expected Jesus to personally call him to ministry and service, yet our Lord did. We might be next. How will we respond?

 

Follow Me-Straightaway They Followed

Matthew 4:17-22 

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.

Here we see Jesus walking the shores of the Sea of Galilee forming His church from among those he chose. In this story, He chose and called Peter, Andrew, John and James, who were all commercial fishermen in the Sea of Galilee.

Even though this was probably not the first encounter these men had had with Jesus, their response was nonetheless astounding. It’s likely that they had all heard the previous preaching of John the Baptist. It seems Andrew at least had followed John the Baptist for a while. Whatever the full background, at the time of their calling, the four men were simply busy earning their living as fishermen.

Here is where I want to depart a bit from what I usually hear as the narrative concerning these four men. Almost without fail, I see them characterized as “ignorant, unlearned fishermen.” Wellllllllllll….maybe, maybe not. I don’t find anything to indicate that any of them were part of the intellectual elite of the time, but a reading of Scripture tells us that there was more to them than just the label of, “ignorant, unlearned fishermen.”

Fishing could be a lucrative business on the Sea of Galilee, and at least in the case of John and James, the sons of Zebedee, there is plenty of reason to suspect this is so. In the Synagogue at Capernaum, there is a bench or a furnishing if you will, apparently purchased by a man identified as a Zebedee. The family had purchased a pew in the church. Clearly, service in the Synagogue was a part of their lives. We see in Mark’s account of the calling of John that the family business had employees. (Mark 1:20) John seemingly had a home in Jerusalem, because after the Crucifixion he took Mary, the mother of Jesus, there. (John 19:27) John seemed to have known the High Priest because this enabled Peter to be in the courtyard of his home as Jesus was under arrest. (John 18:16) John, at least was from a family of some means.

How does this change the common narrative here? Well poor, ignorant and unlearned young men are ripe for the picking to join up with any radical movement that seems to offer them a way out; affluent young men from successful families…not so much.

Yet, in our story, we see that they DID give it all up. John, James, Peter and Andrew all dropped their nets, abandoned their family business, and took off into the unknown with the man they recognized as the promised Messiah.

They turned their backs on their entire lives and followed Jesus. Wow to this. What’s our problem then? We can’t even be bothered to read our Bibles, go to church more than twice a month, or be bothered to speak to another living soul about the man we supposedly know to be the promised Messiah!

Follow Me!

Matthew 4:17-22

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.

For the next bit, time unknown, we are going to poke around a little bit in some Biblical characters who were at different times called to follow the Lord in some assignment. I don’t know who yet, really, but there are tons of course; and, they all reacted differently to the call of God in their lives. Since I am still re running an old series on Mon, Wed and Fridays, the plan here is to run this new material on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Every word in God’s Word has a lesson for us today. If it did not, I don’t think God would have inspired the writers to include these narratives. So, as we move along through this, we will just take a look, see how different folks reacted, and see what present day lessons we can come up with for us in our own lives.

I have absolutely zero concrete plan for this, so we may bounce back and forth a bit from place to place as the Spirit moves.

I hope you will stick around and see where it all goes!

Are We Really Too Busy?

How does God feel about Bible reading? Well, here are a few verses which place it pretty high on God’s priority list for Christian lives:

2 Timothy 3:16,17 God Himself literally “breathed out” every single word of Scripture and it is the only guide to faith we need.

Psalm 119:160 God’s Word is true and will last forever.

Matthew 4:4 God’s word is necessary for life, more so than literal bread.

Joshua 1:8 One of the greatest men of the Bible teaches us that if we meditate on God’s Word day and night, we will be rewarded.

2 Timothy 2:15 Here we are simply commanded to study God’s Word and why.

There are many, many more; in combination they clearly prove that God considers the daily reading, studying and meditating on His Word as something He wants Christians to do. To even try to debate that point would be beyond ludicrous, to tell the truth. So, everything in this post is written from that perspective. Why do I say that? Well, because some of what I say might seem to be inflexible to some readers; however, God’s own word teaches that He is pretty inflexible on that point Himself. Agreeing with God on areas He considers important is good policy, frankly.

So, then, just what is our problem? Here is some interesting data:

A couple of years ago, LifeWay Research released a study with some interesting findings.

The survey found 90 percent of churchgoers agree “I desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do,” and 59 percent agree with the statement: “Throughout the day I find myself thinking about biblical truths.” While the majority agree with both statements, there is a significant difference in the strength of agreement. Nearly two-thirds of churchgoers (64 percent) strongly agree with the first statement, but only 20 percent strongly agree with the second.

However, when asked how often they personally (not as part of a church worship service) read the Bible, a similar number respond “Every Day” (19 percent) as respond “Rarely/Never” (18 percent). A quarter indicate they read the Bible a few times a week. Fourteen percent say they read the Bible “Once a Week” and another 22 percent say “Once a Month” or “A Few Times a Month.” See the article here.

Here is some date from the American Bible Society:

If they do read it, the majority (57 percent) only read their Bibles four times a year or less. Only 26 percent of Americans said they read their Bible on a regular basis (four or more times a week). Read the article here.

So, again I ask, what’s our problem? We know what the problem is; I should have asked: What’s our excuse? Today, we are only talking about the, “I don’t have time” excuse. Here are some strategies that might be of some use for those readers really interested in getting with God’s program of daily time in His Word. For those NOT really interested, just move along I guess, as this won’t apply to you.

Commit to it. Our walk of faith is not accidental; it must be intentional. Remember Daniel? Early in his life Daniel and some friends were faced with a test of their faith. Most Christians know the story of Daniel and his friends refusing to eat the King’s meat. Daniel 1:8 tells us that Daniel “purposed in his heart” not to eat the meat offered by The King. The application here is that, for anything we want to accomplish for and through God, we still have to make an intentional decision to actually do it. Any talk of some daily study plan is irrelevant if we aren’t committed to doing it.

Make choices. The truth is, there are only 24 hours in a day; that is just a fact and a reality. We all make choices daily about the things we get to do or do not get to do. In some cases, it may be as simple as deciding which TV show to watch. We can’t watch two at once, so we choose. Do we go to this party or that party? The list goes on and on. We choose to not do things because of time every single day.

How do we decide? We decide based on what is important to us; we decide on based on what matters to us; we decide based on what will bring us the most payoff and once again the list goes on and on. Because we have committed to some things, choosing them becomes quite easy. The same is true for daily Bible study; if we commit to it, then we have to make the choice of what NOT to do to make room for it.

Pick a time; make it a habit. How many things do we have a time assigned at which we do it? Once again, television comes to mind. I know people who would no more miss Monday Night Football than they would skip eating for a week. What about work? Most of us have a particular time we have to report in. The point is, we have a time at which we do those things. That time belongs to those things, and because of that we do them. They are habits.

The time doesn’t matter; pick what works. But do pick, and assign that time and don’t allow another thing to infringe or take that time. I like really early in the morning. It’s all mine, as nobody else is awake then. It’s quiet, as nobody else is awake then. It also happens to be the time of day when I am freshest and most able to concentrate. It is my most effective time of the day, and I feel God deserves my best time. And that’s not just my opinion, I got it from God, who has made many references to us giving Him our firstfruits in His Word. Get a Concordance and check out firstfruits if you don’t believe me.

Now, let’s sum up. The sign said, “If you’re too busy to read the Bible, you’re too busy.” That is simply true and non-negotiable. I say non-negotiable because that is how God sees it, and that seals it. I can cook up justification otherwise until the day ends, and I would simply be wrong. And guess what? If you do that, you are wrong as well.

So, commit to it, make choices, pick your time and begin a new habit that I promise will transform your Christian walk.

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