Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Prayer Like No Other

          Perhaps no other chapter in the Bible touches my heart more than John 17.  This is known as the "high priestly prayer" of Jesus Christ our Savior.  Prayer is communication between God and man and  knowing that Christ, who is both fully God and fully man, offered up prayer for us as believers should touch our hearts with deepest humility.
     Aware that He faced death upon the cross as our perfect sacrifice, He spent time talking to God on our behalf.  He is, after all, our high priest and the only mediator between God and man.   Jesus begins His prayer by preparing Himself for what is to come.  He knows He has accomplished what the Father has sent Him to do during His earthly ministry.  Then, Jesus says in verse 2:  "...since you have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him."  Here our Lord makes reference to the fact that God has sovereignly  chosen those who would be called by His name.  Then, He gave them to His Son that they might find salvation through His sacrifice.
     As we consider the part of this prayer that deals with both His disciples and all future believers that should come after them, we can break it down into a few parts.  First, Jesus prays for our knowledge in verses 6-9.  Looking specifically at verse 8-9, we read:  "For I have given them the words that You gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them.  I am not praying for the world but for those whom You have given me for they are Yours."  Jesus makes clear in these verses that His prayer is not for the world at large but for those whom God has called to belong to Himself...a people after His own name.
     In verses 10-12, Jesus prays for our perseverance.  If ever we doubted the Lord's love for us, all we have to do is read these verses.  Jesus knew what lay ahead of Him.  He came to die for our sins, but in the midst of this time before the storm, He prayed for our perseverance.  He was going to the Father and asked that God would guard and protect those who were believers.  How well our Savior knew our weak frame and the temptations that would come our way!
     Not only did He pray for perseverance but He also prayed for our joy in verse 13:  "But now I am coming to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves."  Joy is that unspeakable assurance that God is present in our lives.  It does not mean happiness which is often here today and gone tomorrow, but an abiding peace which resides in our hearts and minds that no one can take from us.  This is a gift worth having and by the sacrifice of Christ, this joy is ours day by day.
     One of the most beautiful parts of this prayer, to me, is found in verses 14-17 where Jesus prays for our protection from evil and for our sanctification.  Jesus, here, reminds the Father that He has given us God's Word and because of this, the world hates us since we no longer belong to the world.  Jesus does not ask God to take us out of the world but to keep us from the evil one.  Then comes this verse:  "Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth."  Keep in mind that it is God who does the sanctifying. Our efforts in any of this are of no avail.  Rather, it is in and through Christ alone that we are redeemed and sanctified.  This is a blessed thought.
     Finally, in verses 20-26, Jesus prays for our unity, oneness, our mutual love and for the day when we will be with Him.  Not only did Jesus pray all of this for His current disciples who would soon be tested beyond their limits with His trial and crucifixion but He also has prayed this for us as well.  We, and all who came after the disciples,  are those of the future generations for which our Lord prayed all of these things.  Here we have provision for all we need in life and godliness in one prayer.  Because He was the perfect lamb of God, all that He asked the Father has been done for us.
     This prayer should bring us to our knees in repentance and thanksgiving.  We have such a Great Savior, who before He went to the cross, made known by prayer, His desire for our welfare, growth and sanctification.  If this does not humble us, nothing will.  We are a blessed people who are called by the name of Christ.  Meditate on this prayer offered for us as we approach Easter
.  Consider our Savior's ministry on our behalf even as He faced death on the cross.  Then, rejoice in His powerful resurrection which seals for us all the promises made within this prayer.  May we ever live in such a way that we bring glory and honor to our Lord who prayed for us that we might live for Him.  Selah!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

In An Age of Contentiousness

     Most people have heard of "The Dark Ages" or "The Age of Enlightenment", but if I were to name our current time period, I would have to call it "The Age of Contentiousness".  Never have I witnessed so many people going after others on issues whether it is politics or the movies we have decided to watch.  Whatever happened to "civil discourse" or "agreeing to disagree" in a manner that does not cause verbal attacks?  Not only is this happening in the realm of political discussions but also amongst Christians.  Unfortunately people are more concerned about their opinions and being right than about their relationships.  I know someone will say, "But shouldn't I stand up for what I believe?"  My answer is "of course" as long as it can be done in a manner that doesn't damage a friendship.
     Mickey Evans, a fine pastor who started Dunklin Memorial Camp near Brighton, FL and has since gone home to be with the Lord, clearly stated, "It is better to be righteous than right."  I loved that phrase and its implications.  Sometimes wisdom dictates the necessity of acting in a manner that brings peace rather than argumentation.  We may be right about something, but in proving our point, are we hurting others?
     Jesus taught us in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:9:  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."  Matthew Henry in his commentary says:  "The peace-makers are happy. They love, and desire, and delight in peace; and study to be quiet. They keep the peace that it be not broken, and recover it when it is broken. If the peace-makers are blessed, woe to the peace-breakers!" (Biblehub.com, Matthew 5:9).  Amen to that!  We bring glory to God when we act as peacemakers rather than stirring up an argument.  There is always a time and place to take a stand even as Martin Luther did.  However, we have to remember that Luther started out just posting a series of questions for the purpose of discussion.  He did not start out to cause a split in the church but to bring about some reforms.
     When I was a child, we did not have the internet or Facebook.  This resulted in communicating face to face or by telephone (which was not mobile or "smart").  Maybe this is the difference today.  Social media can be a wonderful tool to reach out to people across the distance.  I love my Facebook account because I can communicate with former classmates, my family and friends.  However, there are times when it can be ugly to be online.  When I am tempted to reply with a sassy attitude, I step back and think:  will this edify this person, glorify God, and further the cause of Christ if I say what I want to say?  There is a time for truth but can I say it in love without damaging a brother or sister?
     In his letter to the Romans 12:18, the Apostle Paul writes:  "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."  Once again, Matthew Henry in his commentary states:  "Since men became enemies to God, they have been very ready to be enemies one to another. And those that embrace religion, must expect to meet with enemies in a world whose smiles seldom agree with Christ's. Recompense to no man evil for evil. That is a brutish recompence, befitting only animals, which are not conscious of any being above them, or of any existence hereafter. And not only do, but study and take care to do, that which is amiable and creditable, and recommends religion to all with whom you converse. Study the things that make for peace; if it be possible, without offending God and wounding conscience. Avenge not yourselves" (biblehub.com, Romans 12:18).  Only God can change a heart.  We cannot.  Neither are we called to judge one another, but instead, we are called to demonstrate love.
     If we truly wish to end this "age of contentiousness" then it must begin with us.  We need to think before we speak, post on Facebook, hit send on an email or take action.  We also must pray for those with whom we disagree and remember that we have been forgiven much by God; therefore, we have no place to put others down.  My mother used to remind me almost every day:  "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all".  Thanks to the movie Bambi and the little rabbit Thumper for those wise words!  Let us be peacemakers not peace breakers, and let it begin with us
!  Selah!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Taking Care of the Body

     Some years ago, my husband along with our son-in-law, went to see the human body exhibit at the MOSI science center in Tampa.  People have donated their bodies to science and through the wonder of "plastination" they have been preserved in order to show the public what various systems of the body look like.  Both my husband and son-in-law were amazed at the intricate design of the body created by God.  The Bible tells us in Psalm 139:14:  "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well."
     Unfortunately, if we look around today, we see many people who take their body for granted and abuse it.  The evidence is all around us.....alcoholism, drugs, smoking, obesity, all have a detrimental effect on our health, and in many cases, we know what we should do.  However, we do not do it.  We don't exercise.  We eat junk food, and do not take time to get a good night's sleep.  We avoid going to the doctor for a check-up or worse yet, we go but do not take the advice we have been given.  In some cases, people refuse to take the medication that would help them improve.  Why?
Our newest Grandson Hudson
     According to the Bible, "..for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). There is no one in this world with the exception of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has done everything perfectly.  Furthermore, our perfect world (including our bodies) have been marred with sin in the Garden of Eden.  After the Fall, the world began to change.  Man's body would die as would the animals that God so carefully formed.  Decay and death entered the world, but God's plan would bring redemption and a promise of a new heaven and a new earth.  Likewise, for those who believe in faith that Christ died and rose again from the dead, there is a promise of eternal life.  When the body dies, our soul will not die but live forever in the presence of our Lord.  Then, when Christ returns, we will be given a new body that will never suffer death, pain or illness.  What a great day that will be!  Until that time, though, we are to value and care for the life which God has given to us.
     God does not make mistakes and the body we have, though marred and imperfect as a result of sin, is still a gift from Him.  Psalm 139:13 says:  "For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb."  The Lord knew us from before the foundation of the world.  In fact, the Bible says He even knows the number of hairs on our head.  We have been designed to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, but we need to take care of our body in the process.
     In his letter to the Corinthians, who had their share of problems, the Apostle Paul wrote to them concerning sexual immorality as one aspect of abusing the body.  I Corinthians 6:18-20 reads:  "Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body."  If we are a believer in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit has come to live within our bodies.  We sin against God when we abuse, neglect or forget to take care of ourselves.  As Paul rightly says, "we are not our own".  Christ purchased us with His blood that we might live to the glory of God for eternity.
     When I was young, I never thought much about my diet, exercise or other considerations related to my health.  Somehow, most young adults have the same mindset.  Eventually, though, time catches up with us and we see how our health is affected by the food we eat, and the choices we make.  Neglecting our health is every much a sin as telling a lie.  God has told us that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit and this means our earthly bodies must be cared for.  We certainly do not neglect our vehicles if we need to get around.  Nor do we neglect our homes because we need a good place to live.  Therefore, let us resolve in our hearts to honor God and bring Him glory by taking care of our health.  This human body was fearfully and wonderfully made by the Lord.  May we never take it for granted.  Selah!