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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Rogue Valley Christian Church: message from 8/11/13

  I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. (Psalms 121:1-2)
What an uplifting verse! But the question arises; Do you, do I, truly look to the Lord in times of trouble? Or do we look to other resources. When there is financial stress, where do we look for the help we need? When there are relationship problems, where do we look. In times of sickness, where do we truly go first for help? Or do we treat him like technical support, and after we have tried all other resources then we call on God.
After reading this passage Russell told a story that is found in II Chronicles 16; about Asa king of Judah, that God wanted to bless, but he would not turn to God. Instead he took the gold and precious stones from the temple and bribed the ally of his enemy. This worked for that present situation but God sent his prophet to Asa and told him that because he did not rely on God he would have wars for the rest of his life and it was so. For the eyes of Jehovah run to and fro through the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward him. (2 Chronicles 16:9) Asa was so angry that he put God’s prophet in prison. Later when his feet were seriously infected he still would not call on the Lord. And so he died.
In Luke 7 we see two stories that were extremely different. In Capernaum there was a Roman centurion that had a servant that was ill, and that servant was very dear to him. When he heard that Jesus was coming he sent some of the leaders of the synagogue to him requesting that he would come to heal the servant. The Jewish leaders said that the centurion was worthy because he loved the people of Israel and had built them a synagogue.
Russell pointed out the contrast between the two men. Asa was a king in Judah and should have logically called upon the Lord for help, but he refused. The centurion was part of the occupying army of Rome and considered the enemy of God’s people. The centurion turned to God’s people to request help from this Jewish prophet, Jesus. And he did not seek help for himself but for a servant.
Jesus said he would go and as he was going the centurion sent some of his friends to Jesus to say that he was not worthy that Jesus should even come into his house, and he did not feel worthy to even come to Jesus. But if Jesus would just say the word he knew his servant would be healed, because he was also a man under authority. He understood that authority only comes from submission to authority. And Jesus authority was derived from his submission to God and therefore he had authority to do this without being with the servant.
It says that Jesus marveled because of this man’s faith. Russell pointed out that there is only one other time that it says Jesus marveled and that was in Mark 6:6 where it says he marveled because of their unbelief. But in this case Jesus said, “I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel.” What a profound compliment for this man.
God is not impressed with anything we can do or accomplish. God is impressed when we have faith.
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
Russell said, “faith is a conclusion we come to based on examining the evidence before us. We follow that evidence toward that which we do not see.” Faith and action go together. We do not impress God by our actions but at the same time our faith that pleases God will result in action.
Russell told a story of faith that occurred in our own church family. Samantha and Matt were expecting a baby. After the doctors did some tests and then did some of them again they came in and told them that their baby would surely have problems if he could even be born alive. He would be disfigured and probably mentally handicapped. they advised that she have an abortion. Sam and Matt prayed about this for a while, but came to the conclusion that they would let God decide and she would carry this baby as long as God wanted. Rylan was born with many complications but he lived to go through many procedures and miracles. Finally there was a problem with his liver and he was sent to Portland. In Portland they were told that Rylan would have to have a very dangerous procedure and probably would not survive. It worked out that Russell and David Wise were in Portland and stopped by the hospital to visit and heard the news. They gathered around Matt and Sam and prayed that God would glorify Himself in baby Rylan in such a way that the doctors would have to acknowledge it. The next day the doctors informed them that somehow Rylan’s kidneys were functioning normally and the procedure would be unnecessary. Rylan is home in Medford and was at church yesterday. To the glory of God!
They believed in God and cried out to him for help, then went toward the help they sought. God can go where we cannot go and do what we cannot do. We need to rely on him in all of our need and trial to help us in ways no one else can.
Further on is the story of the widow whose son had died. (Luke 7:11-16) This is another amazing story of Jesus miracles, but the thing Russ pointed out here was that it says of Jesus, “He had compassion on her.” What a wonderful thing to think about. What a wonderful truth to realize, and apply in our daily life. God cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7
This last week has been difficult for the Vaughn family. Shannon was planning to go with the team to India this week, but her back went out and there seems no help for it. They prayed and called the elders but it is not any better, so she will not be going. This was a big disappointment, but they are believing that God cares for them and knows what is best.
And this is the challenge for the week. Seek to have a renewed and increased confidence in God’s love and care.

Rest in Philippians 4:4-8

Friday, August 9, 2013

 Once again I am writing from beautiful humid Oklahoma. I started working again at the church here. I took a couple weeks off because my back was hurting and I couldn’t straighten up once I bent over. All better now and I am not trying to work as long as I was at a stretch. Seems I’m getting to be a wimp, maybe just old. I enjoy being outside in the mornings and the weeds show me how persistent sin can be. Here there is a lot of Bermuda grass. I hate even calling it grass, but it is green and it thrives. Bermuda, grows and spreads by sending runners above ground and roots under ground. So, it is in the flower beds where we don’t want it. That’s my job pulling and digging it out. But you just cannot get all of the roots so it will always pop back up and if you leave it alone it will spread again and thrive. So you see how it is like sin that hides in our lives and we can attack it with our will and get the best of it for a time but it will pop out again when we don’t expect it.
Sunday Russell says he finished Luke 6. He also said that we could probably stay there for a few more weeks otherwise. I agree, there is a lot in this chapter to work on. But then I am kind of a slow student of God’s Word. At any rate he took a look at the last few verses of the chapter, calling it sort of an orientation speech for the 12 apostles that he chose and we heard a little about last week.
Beginning in verse 27 it basically says, “You who are listening, live out love.” that was sort of Russell’s version. He pointed out that it begins with, “You, the ones who are listening.” So many good and profitable things are said, but because no one is listening there is little benefit. Russell prayed that we would hear the things we need to hear in the message he shared. I pray that also for you as you read my reflections on his message. Whether some one is speaking or we are reading the written word if we are not paying attention to understand the thing we need, it will do us no good.
Covering verses 27 to 49 Russell said we were going to get sort of the Google Earth view of the things Jesus said. What is the primary impression we can get from this section. That primary impression is that we are to love our enemies, love those who are contrary, love those who oppose us. Loving our friends is no big deal Jesus wants us to take it up a notch or two.
Russell pointed out that verse 31 is commonly called the golden rule. “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” This is the sum and substance of this command. He pointed out that we don’t need to like someone in order to love them. He also pointed out that anyone who has been married for sometime knows this is true. And so when it says to bless (vs.28) or speak well of, or to turn the other cheek (vs.29), and to give to those who ask of you (vs. 30) we see practical application of this instruction.
NOTE: Russell pointed out that some of Jesus’ teachings were exaggerated to make the point and emphasize the seriousness of the command. He did not imply that we should receive brutality from others as acceptable.
The phrase he used was, “Love others more than your own pride.” He also said, “Love to the extreme and be children of your heavenly father.” Look at verse 36.
Russell mentioned that if you want to see a good illustration of love your enemy you might consider the book “The Shack”. He said he didn’t necessarily agree with all the spiritual teaching but the spirit of loving our enemies is very well illustrated.
Russell spent some time talking about the Old Testament book of Hosea. In this book God illustrated His love and mercy in the life of the man Hosea. God commanded him to marry a prostitute. This shows how God continually showed mercy to the children of Israel even though they repeatedly turned their backs to him and served other gods. This is the kind of love God desires to develop in us; His kind of love.
Also in Psalms 103:9-12 we can see God’s great mercy demonstrated.
Then in verse 37 of Luke 6 is the verse that nearly every one knows whether they are Christians or not. Well they at least know the first part, “Judge not,” . Compare this with Matthew 7:1-2 and you will see a little clearer picture of the intention of Jesus’ statement.
“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
And so we can see again the application of the “golden rule”. Judge as you would wish to be judged. And we can see nearly the same words repeated in verse 38. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. We are all prone to falling short of God’s will and we aught to be merciful to one another. The agape love that God shows us is the love he wishes to develop in each of us. The only way to accomplish this is by his grace working in us in the obedience of faith.
Jesus spoke of the splinter in my brothers eye and the beam in mine. How silly of me to try to help my brother before I get the beam out of my own eye. The blind cannot lead the blind. Both will fall into the ditch. the disciple is not greater than his master but everyone that is perfected is like his master. Jesus is the Master. Jesus can see clearly. I must set my mind to follow Jesus and do his will. Then I will be able to see good fruit coming forth. Not because of my virtue but by the virtue of the Spirit of God working in me, to his glory.
Time Magazine asked several prominent authors to answer the question; “What’s wrong with the world today.” Among those that they asked was G.K. Chesterton, a prominent Catholic writer and philosopher of that time. His answer was, “I am.” This is the attitude we each should have. My problem is me.
There is a tremendous amount of material here and I hope I have conveyed a small portion of it in an understandable way. I believe that God’s will for us is always the same, and that is that we become like his son Jesus. If we seek him, He will do it. What a wonderful Gospel.

Always be encouraged to Faithfulness