Monday, June 22, 2015

God is the best matchmaker

In the fall of 1967 I went back to Ozark Bible College (Now Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Mo.) with marriage on my mind. I was very interested in finding a willing young lady to share my life with.

This was my third year at Bible College I was going to a little church in Duquesne Mo. while at school. I was the song leader (now I would be the worship leader) and Jeannie played the piano.

Now although I was in college, I was not real clever, so I didn’t even think of her as a viable candidate for marriage to me. I was more interested in glamor or unique interest. There were a couple of Hawaiian girls there that I thought might be special and a girl from Norway that I liked for the job. Happily they were much smarter than me and kindly buy firmly told me to keep looking.

This went on for some time and I was getting kind of frustrated. Mostly I thought of myself as a pretty desirable guy and I was getting some pretty cold shoulders.

In my frustration I thought of something intelligent to do. I prayed, and pretty much laid my problem out to God. While I was praying it came into my mind that I should make a list of characteristics that I should be looking for. This idea came while I was consciously praying so naturally I was aware that I should place this list in an order appropriate for a spiritual person. So practical things like domestic skills and music were high on the list and physical beauty was at the bottom. This says nothing about Jeannie but only about how I thought God would want my list to look. After I finished making the list I put it in a notebook and pretty much forgot about it then went on my way searching according to my ideas.

This went on for a while. During this time as I mentioned Jeannie was playing the piano and I was leading the singing at the little church where we went. I also was her ride to and from church and we hung out together from time to time, when I wasn’t looking for a future Mrs. Everingham.

After a few weeks and more frustration I resorted to prayer again. I might not have been stupid but I was pretty slow. This time as I was praying I distinctly was aware of Jeannie Foyil. I think I heard God tell me “what about Jeannie Foyil?” I didn’t like that idea and told Him so. She wasn’t my ideal. As I sat there arguing with God, He said, “Look at your list.” I hadn’t thought about it for a while but when I heard that I knew exactly where it was.

As I looked down that list I realized that it was a spot on description of Jeannie. I was blown away.

The next time we headed to church, on the way I told Jeannie I wanted to talk to her. She asked me about what. I said, “About us.” We were friends, we went to church together and did other stuff but there was really no ‘us’. We were just friends, pretty good friends but just friends. Mostly I talked to her about my frustration in my search.

So, after I had dropped everyone else who rode with me off we got out of the car by the trailer where Jeannie and 3 other girls stayed. I pretty much told her about the list and my little conversation with God. Then I explained that I didn’t love her and then I made some very tasteless comments and asked her if she would consider marrying me.

Believe it or not, she said she would consider it. 

That Thanksgiving I went home with her to meet her family in Tulsa Ok. and then at Christmas she went home with me to Ohio to meet my family. I flunked out of Bible college, got drafted and we were married May 25th at her youth sponsor’s house. The wedding happened after I got my draft notice and we drove from Joplin Missouri to Tulsa with a stop in Miami Oklahoma to get our blood test so we could get our marriage license before we went to her parent's house. The evening of the 24th we went to her brother’s high school graduation. Then on Saturday we were married, then Sunday morning we drove about 200 miles so I could preach at a little church in Sparta Missouri near Silver Dollar City in Branson where we had our 6 hour honeymoon.

She was not what I wanted or was looking for, but God showed me that she was the perfect match for me. She is my best friend and I am thankful from the deepest part of my heart for her. I thank God always for her.

Trust God with every area of your life. I heard a wise man say we should seek a wife just like Adam did. Go to sleep and let God bring her to you.

Be Faithful

Rick

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Why Should we fear God?

Why must we fear God?

This is a valid and a good question, especially when so many people are telling us that “God is good” and “God is love.” How can anyone reconcile these two concepts, especially to people who are somewhat hostile to Christianity, especially as they have seen it practiced round about?

For the moment let’s not talk about how Christianity is preached and practiced and simply try to address the question; why must we fear God? Obviously I can only answer from my own point of view which is the point of one who is a learning to be disciple of Jesus.

Every reasonable person has fears. People fear losing their job, losing a loved one, a child, a parent, a mate, losing their money, losing their health or mental ability. We may fear being injured on the job. It seems reasonable to fear dying.  Fear is usually presented as a negative thing, but is it truly? If an electrician working with high voltage does not fear the power and destructive force of that electricity, that caviler attitude can get him killed. As a truck driver I had a healthy fear of the physical laws that do not change just because I am such a smart guy, so I didn’t take an 80,000 lb. load down a 4 mile 6% grade in 8th gear.

So then when we come to God there are a couple of other things that we must consider. First of all does a person actually believe in God? If not then of course there is no reason to fear him. I have absolutely no fear of Sasquatch or yeti, because I do not believe they truly exist. The second question that should be asked if a person does believe in God is, what sort of god do they believe in?

Over time there have been many gods presented by various people and religious practitioners. Some of the gods were good, some not so good and some were downright scoundrels.

The book commonly called the Bible or The Holy Bible presents a God that is unique in many ways. The Bible itself is a very unique record. It was prepared over a period of over 1,000 years by over 50 separate authors, many of course never met one another. And yet it presents a unified record, much of which has been authenticated by science, archeology and secular history.

The God of the Bible is inexpressibly good, kind and loving, and yet he is also inexpressibly powerful and holy. The God of the Bible demands obedience of his children, and yet he provides a way of restoration for those who have been disobedient, if they will sincerely seek that restoration according to His conditions.

The foolish electrician will ignore the laws that govern the use of electricity and in the end will cause much damage and possibly injury or death. The foolish truck driver will ignore the laws of physics and will eventually destroy much and possibly injure or kill himself and possibly others. The wise electrician and the wise truck driver will have a healthy fear of the laws that govern their craft and so far as it concerns them will keep themselves and other safe.

A person who believes in the God of the Bible who is wise will have a healthy fear of the spiritual laws that govern all people and will, as far as they are able keep themselves and those around them safe.

In Matthew 10:28 Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body but cannot touch your soul. Fear only God who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” He goes on to say, “What is the price of two sparrows – one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” (NLT)

Some will say we need to respect the God of the Bible and some modern translations have said it that way, but if I only respect the God that I serve I am still free to respectfully disagree with what he says and not obey. If I fear that He is and will do what He says fear will compel me to obey whether I agree or disagree.

If you do believe in the God of the Bible who created everything and maintains all things, you definitely need to have a healthy fear of Him. If you do not believe in the God of the Bible I hope this has at least clarified the matter a little.

Proverbs says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” (1:7 & 9:10) It is the beginning but it is only the beginning.

Be Faithful to what you believe.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Master's Wealth

Jesus told a story about a man who was going on a journey and before he left he entrusted some of his wealth to 3 of his servants. To one he gave 3 portions and to another 2 and to the third a single portion of his wealth, to each according to their abilities. Then he went away.

Each of the servants did something with the portion of the master’s wealth that they were given. In the end the master returned and their performance was the basis for their reward.

It is probably important to realize that this is one of a series of stories Jesus was telling to illustrate what the Kingdom of heaven is like. Each of these stories demonstrated the importance of our behavior when the time for judgement comes. We will be judged and rewarded according to what we do! These are the words of Jesus
.
Two of the servants doubled the treasure of the master and one only hid the treasure so he could return it to his master when he returned.

What is this about?

How can it apply to my daily life?

I have not been satisfied with any answers I have heard over the years. The King James Bible and many of the other newer translations have unfortunately made an unfortunate translation that I suspect may have been misused to suggest that the wealth of the master had something to do with talents or abilities. The Greek word would be spelled TALENTON. Therefore rather than translate the word scholars simply spelled it like an English word that they could explain as it was convenient for them. The Greek word actually simply means a certain sum of money.

As I said at the beginning, the master distributed portions of his wealth to each of 3 of his servants. If the story is to help us understand what the kingdom of Heaven is like, wouldn’t it seem logical to assume that the master represents Jesus? What then of the portions of his wealth? These were each servants of the master (Jesus). What does God give us when we come to him to be born again into his kingdom? A very precious gift, He gives each of us his Holy Spirit to live inside of us to guide us into all righteousness. (John 14:22)

As we learn to listen to the Spirit of God who lives in us whole dimensions of life become available. Not least is the power to stop choosing sin and to choose obedience to God instead. But these treasures never become real for us if we do not take the gift of God and cultivate that gift in our daily life. In that case, when the master returns and asks what we have done with his treasure, he will take the treasure away and cast us into outer darkness.

But if we have worked to cultivate that spiritual relationship and have increased it even a little he will be pleased with us. But we each must work to the best of our ability.

These stories of Jesus are a frightening contrast to the teaching that Jesus did it all and there is nothing for us to do. Certainly we could never earn the gift of forgiveness we could never balance the scale. That is the wonderful mercy of God. We could never overcome one sin without the help of the Spirit of God working in our lives. But this story clearly tells me that I do have work to do and if I neglect that work the consequences are severe.


Let us each one work to cultivate our relationship with our Heavenly Father, with our Savior Jesus the Christ and with the Holy Spirit that lives in us. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

For Keri

Here are some thoughts about the article you shared. It seems a little rambly I hope it’s not too disconnected. (ref; christianityfortherestofus.com; “Disillusioned Christian”)

Disillusioned Christian. A very interesting and thoughtful article. I found myself identifying with much of what he said. However even though for some time now I have felt disillusioned about the church system I have not become disillusioned with Jesus. I still believe what I have believed for a long time about him and in many ways very similar to what much of main line Christianity professes.
There have been times when I just wanted to chuck it all in and walk away. It didn’t work! The truth is it didn’t and doesn’t work the way I was always taught. The feel-good religion is a lie. That’s not to say that there are no good feelings. But, the reality of the gospel message does not make me giddy. The rhythmic music and the entertaining speeches are enjoyable but they are not a help in the daily life.

Money is a little like truth. When you have 3 or 4 Benjamin’s in your pocket you know you can handle most of life’s regular situations. Truth is like that only better. To handle those daily situations you will need to sacrifice some of those Bens. To get through the day the truth is you will need to give up some other things as well.

For myself at some time I realized that my plans and my strategy was yielding some pretty unsatisfactory results. What are the alternatives? The religious system is all I have known for over 60 years. Heaven and Hell are not big motivators. A life that works; now that could get me excited. Over the years I have seen some people who seemed to be successful in their life. I am talking about success in the difficulties not without difficulties. I am talking about people like Steve Saint (The End of the Spear) or Corrie Ten Boom (The Hiding Place). These are real people and they found their strength and their direction as they looked at Jesus. I have known some similar people as well although their lives were not filled with so much public drama, still they succeeded by looking to Jesus following his example and obeying his commands.

Jesus is much more than a Bible story. He is a real person whose life is revealed little by little throughout the Bible. I cannot know him by just reading about him. I must learn by obeying what he says, and follow the example I see in the Bible. As I am doing this I am experiencing better results. Also, as I am doing this it is requiring that I change my behavior, thoughts and attitudes in many ways I never expected or would have been willing to change. Truth demands sacrifice!

So in the mean time I am not sure where I belong when it comes to churches, but wherever I am I know that my focus is on following Jesus and learning how to obey his commands.
There are still no easy answers. J

Here is a little of how it is working, sort of, for me. In one paragraph he speaks of staying silent or shouting angrily at no one in particular (The great nameless faceless “they”) I have found or I believe God has shown me an answer to this. I do not like the answer but I believe it is the answer for me.
Isa 42:1-4 The LORD says, "Here is my servant, whom I strengthen--- the one I have chosen, with whom I am pleased. I have filled him with my Spirit, and he will bring justice to every nation. He will not shout or raise his voice or make loud speeches in the streets. He will not break off a bent reed nor put out a flickering lamp. He will bring lasting justice to all. He will not lose hope or courage; he will establish justice on the earth. Distant lands eagerly wait for his teaching."
Matthew quotes this when he is writing about Jesus in Matthew 12:18. For me this works in that as I want to be like Jesus, I need to find the way to conform my life, thoughts and attitudes to this. So for a while now I have been thinking about it. I especially think about it when things are said by those I care about that I believe are damaging things to be saying. (Facebook!) I know that mostly people do not want to be corrected. I don’t! So I get to be quiet or not respond directly. Often I simply get to pray and think about my own life. This is a response I don’t enjoy because I want to do something, but I know it is the right response. Someone may ask for my thoughts and hopefully I will be able to share them in a way that is helpful.

In the next paragraph he says he’s stuck and not making progress. I suspect that this may not be true if he is sincerely seeking. It sometimes takes a lot of work to get a garden ready to produce a good crop. In our lives as well sometimes we do a lot of work that doesn’t appear evident for some time. Sharpening the hoe and collecting seeds doesn’t look like anything in the garden patch but they are necessary, doing them is progress toward the crop. The most productive thing I have ever done in this regard is to memorize and meditate on Matthew 5:3-9. When I began and for a long time it didn’t seem like I was accomplishing anything. But as I thought about the meanings of the words I saw the wisdom and aspired to be conformed to those virtues. As I did this I suppose I was praying, and little by little I have begun to see changes. It is very slow, but it is progress.

I would dearly love to find others who want to follow Jesus and become more and more like him. I am not offended by many church services, but I am seldom helped either. It is a matter of a community sharing our struggles and accepting that we are individually in different places and that we each have our own understanding of how it works; how God wants to work in our lives. I believe following and obeying Jesus is the way and I don’t think that will change, but I am pretty sure that screaming that into your face won’t convince you and it certainly isn’t making me any more like him.

So those are some of my thoughts. I hope they are understandable and that you may find some encouragement for your life there. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

I Desperately Desire to be In Church!

I desperately desire to be in church! But what does that mean? I know it seems like a simple statement that can easily be fulfilled at any of many local meeting places. But, what is church? And, how does it compare with all of those local meetings that are considered to be church?

In nearly every “church meeting” I have gone to there is a very similar pattern that is followed. First there is a “worship time”, where a single person or very small group of people decide what everyone will sing and then lead singing of their preferred genre of “worship songs”. This is not a time for discussing what songs are better. It is simply what I have seen. This is usually followed by an offering to support “The Lord’s Work” which is also determined by another small group of “leaders”. In some groups the communion service is included here, though it varies from group to group.” Then there is a “message” given by someone whose primary employment is to bring a message each week or even 3 times a week that will keep people coming back and satisfied that they are participating in “The Lord’s work.” The message will also include a strong encouragement to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your savior so you can go to Heaven and avoid going to Hell.

Singing songs, giving offerings, receiving communion and hearing a message of encouragement are all good things that God’s Word encourages us to be doing. But is this the pattern that is described in the New Testament for the Church to be following? I must allow that there are many similarities. However there seems to be a large disparity between how this is currently accomplished and how the Word of God describes the development of the meeting of believers.

In 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 we have a large portion of the description of how the local assemblies are to function. It is surely no accident that those 2 important chapters are surrounding the incomparable glory that is 1 Corinthians 13. Anyone who would set about to correct the majority of Christendom must absolutely recognize the gravity and necessity of charity as described in this passage or else simply slam about wounding and doing damage to the Church of God.

A large difference that I see between the modern American church and the instructions I read in the New Testament is what might be called full participation. As I have mentioned, in the popular church meeting the messages are primarily brought by a paid minister who was selected by either a small group of leaders or by a popular vote of the congregation. This person is chosen because of the college that they attended, because they are a gifted speaker, or because they have shown leadership abilities in another assembly. 1 Corinthians 14 begins with the encouragement to follow after charity and desire spiritual abilities but especially that you may prophesy. Then from verse 24 to verse 33 there are clear directions for the conduct of a meeting. I am especially aware that participation is encouraged for all. Verse 31 says “all may prophesy”. Here you may understand that by prophesy I am considering this the same as bringing the message of encouragement. I think the context supports this.

There are other aspects of the Biblical pattern for the church which could be considered at a later time if there is interest, but just now this is a good place to stop. I am sure there are some who would protest that this could not work because the general congregation lacks training to be able to express themselves. There would be error and confusion in what was shared. The problems go on and on, and they are justified. But they are not problems that the current system avoids. Yet the pattern set down in scripture is just that; The Scriptural pattern.  I and many others have seen the Scriptural pattern for meetings yield very good fruit in the lives of many. Some of the strongest admonitions for my life have come from simple testimonies of what might be called unlearned men, women, and even children who sincerely shared what they heard the Spirit telling them.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Shield of What?


Above all, take the shield of faith, with which you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. (Ephesians 6:16)

Above all… what an imperative statement. What an all-inclusive statement.

One of the amazing things to me about this whole passage is that it speaks of the different aspects of the Christian life as very useful articles in the clothing of a soldier in spiritual battle. I am therefore very inclined to find a clear and practical understanding of what these items are so that I can use them in this warfare that we are engaged in. I am therefore very interested in understanding what it is and how to use this shield of faith.

For years I heard and many times read the definition in Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.

To me this was not very helpful. And it is amazing that this is the answer so frequently given. But if you will read on in the chapter there are very good examples of what faith is and how it works.

Noah may be my favorite of those mentioned although Enoch is also very impressive. Noah is so good because we can read about what happened and if we will think about it see that faith involved a long and difficult task that was the result of a warning from God (Gen. 6:)
. It was also a job that had to be accomplished in the face of opposition with almost no support. Faith then was a matter of being faithful and doing what was required without support or help and possibly with opposition.

In Luke 17 Jesus gives instruction to the disciples about relationships and when they ask him to increase their faith he tells them a parable about a servant who comes in from working all day and then is told to clean up and prepare dinner for his master. The servant does not expect to be thanked or praised for his work. Jesus tells his disciples, “So likewise you, when you shall have done all the things commanded you, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants, for we have only done what we ought to do.’”

So then how is this a practical shield against the darts of the devil?
If we are actively seeking to know and do God’s will rather than our own, when doubts and fears come we can safely hide behind the shield of faith. When discouragement would tear me down when I get busy about the work that I believe God wants me to be doing, that dart has no power against me.

OK, so what is this work that I am supposed to be about?

God’s word is full of activities He wants each of us to be about; In everything Give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thes. 5:18). Finally brethren whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue and if there be any praise think on these things (Phil. 4:4-8). I exhort you therefore that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings and all that are in authority(1 Tim. 2:1+). Because of this, make every effort to add integrity to your faith; and to integrity add knowledge; to knowledge add self-control; to self-control add endurance; to endurance add godliness; to godliness add Christian affection; and to Christian affection add love If you have these qualities and they are increasing, it demonstrates that your knowledge about our Lord Jesus Christ is living and productive (2 Peter 1:5-8).

If we become faithful in these activities Satan’s darts will do us no harm. And this is work because it is in every case contrary to the old nature and in complete harmony with the Spirit of God.


Take up the shield of faith.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Profanity is not a problem with your mouth!

Many of us have battled with profanity to some degree or another. There are even acceptable versions of profanity heard in churches of all colors. On the street someone may say ‘Oh shit’ but around home or at church it sound like ‘Oh crap’ , ‘Oh poo’ or maybe even ‘PICKLES”. The illustrations could go on and on but you can see what I mean if you are interested.

Many of us have tried to overcome this habit with the acceptable curses, but that does not eliminate the problem. The problem is much deeper than my mouth. In Luke 6:45 Jesus says;

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth the good. And an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth the evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
What comes out of my mouth comes straight from my heart. It is also true for you. I can say, “But I was only joking.” But what Jesus says is different. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” So here is the problem. My heart… your heart.
So much of the business of following Jesus is wrapped up in our heart. Lately as I read God’s Word “heart” seems to jump out at me and when I see it I come to a stop to see how it applies. One precious brother said, “My heart is that place where I like it.” My heart is the place where I have a taste for a thing. Whether it is ice cream, the Word of God, puppies or profanity. If I can admit this then I can truly go to work on the problem.

Do I trust God in all things? Do I believe in the deepest part of my heart that He is loving and caring for me? If that is true of me then when something happens that is a difficulty for me the response from my heart will be one of praise to God. And that is what will come out of my mouth. Yours as well!
When you hear profanity coming out of your mouth think about this. What is in my heart that such things come out of my mouth?

On our way to Arizona we stopped at Boron California and saw the 20 Mule Team Museum. Older readers will remember the TV show about the 20 Mule Team. There really was a time when teams of 20 mules would go into the mountains of Southern California to haul out the Boron from the mines. 10 pair of mules were harnessed to a chain that pulled the wagons to and from the mines. The mule skinner or driver sat on the last mule on the left with 1 rope leading up to the first mule on the left and this with his voice commands is how he controlled the mules. In the same way the reins for our tongue are way down in our heart telling us what to say and how to speak.

Think about it.