Monday, September 25, 2017

         Bubble Gum
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?  it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.  Matthew 5:13 

     Every time I go into Meganom or Ashan, I see a variety of gumball machines.  Kids love gumball machines. We have 5 children, and they were always asking for a coin to put into those beautiful enticing machines to get gum.  We had a rule at home, “No chewing gum inside.”  I can’t even remember how many times I had to get gum out of our daughter’s hair.  I tried ice, peanut butter, and even vegetable oil -- and sometimes ended up using scissors.  It was a sticky MESS! Getting gum out of kids’ hair (or even the dog’s coat) was always hard.  Then there was the gum on the floor or carpet. Yep, no gum inside there OR at church!
     However, chewing gum can also be quite entertaining.  It is tasty and has an appeal - especially for children.  When I am tired, a stick of gum helps me not to yawn.  If I need a quick boost for my breathe, the minty taste will refresh it.  Chewing gum after you eat will help clean your teeth (especially since you don’t carry tooth-brushes with you in your purse).  I started thinking about the properties of chewing gum of all things.  Even though it is sticky and messy and I think we can learn some lessons from it.

1.  Don't Get StuckGal 6:9: And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. 
     I remember one day I walked into our living room and there was this huge glob of pink bubblegum stuck in our new carpet.  Of course when I asked the children, all five children said “I don’t know!” or “It wasn’t me!”  I think we had an invisible #6 child that seemed to get all the blame.  So, we made all five of them work on it until it was gone.  They picked at it until the carpet almost had a hole in it.
     Sometimes we get stuck in our spiritual walk.  It seems we are stuck in a rut.  Yes, we attend church and read our Bibles but we don’t seem to be growing spiritually - we feel blah so to speak.  Just like the children picking at the gum on the carpet, we must be consistent.  We must be diligent until we become unstuck.  The Word of God has promised us that if we just stay faithful, if we just stay obedient, if we will serve Him, He will bless.
     We need to look around and see what is getting us stuck. Is there something holding us back in our walk with the Lord? ____ Is there unconfessed sin? ____ Is there something we haven't been obedient about? ____ Is it our attitude that needs adjusting?  ____
Stuck people see no fruit from their labor and the temptation to return to a previous way of life will be powerful.  When you realize you are stuck, don’t quit (as our verse tells us).  Just keep on keeping on.   Be faithful (Heb. 10:23), actively pray (1 Thess. 5:17) and seek God's face (Deut. 4:29).  You can't stay stuck or you will not accomplish anything for Christ.  
     When I'm stuck, I find that if I start looking outward and meeting the needs of others it helps tremendously in prying me loose. Be encouraged. Your efforts are making a difference. Don’t quit.

2.  Don't Lose Your Flavor2 Cor. 2:15  For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:
      When we first moved here, our kids complained that most of the gum they bought only tasted sweet for just a few seconds. It lost its flavor rather quickly.   One young lady at our church used to ask us to bring her “Big Red” chewing gum back from America.  It tasted like cinnamon and it lasted a long time! 
We need to make lasting impressions.  Imagine the footprints you would leave behind from walking through a freshly poured concrete sidewalk. Now, imagine your children and grandchildren as wet cement; what footprints will you leave in their lives?  Eph. 4:1-3 talks about living a life worthy of His calling.  When Jesus saved us, he didn’t just save us for heaven. He saved us to live for him, and to do works in his name.  Think of all the women Bible characters that have made lasting impressions: Ruth, Esther, Deborah, Lydia ______________________________________… little did they know the impact they would have for women through the ages. 
     How about you?  Do you feel like life has chewed you up and you seem to have lost your desire to serve the Lord?  Infuse some flavor into your life by getting back to walking and talking with the One who can sustain you.  Read your Bible more.  Pray more.  Draw closer to the Lord and allow Him to encourage you and breathe new life into you.

3.  Don't be DistractingLuke 10:24  And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things
    One time in school, our teacher told us if we could chew gum and didn’t look like a cow, we could chew gum in class.  Well, every kid tried but nobody passed the test.  Gum in someone's mouth can be the most distracting thing when they are talking with you. It throws us off focus.
     Martha was distracted - her focus had been on service.  What was Mary’s focus? Being near Jesus and listening to Him speak.  Martha’s focus had been practical while Mary’s was more spiritual.  However, Martha’s focus was not entirely bad as service is needed - but there is a time that our focus should be on spiritual.  Jesus knew this, so when Martha confronted Him in exasperation, He paid attention to her.   He heard her words, but more than that He redirected her focus: “But one thing is needful….” (Luke 10:42). The one thing she needed was Him.
     Today the distractions are so much more different than before.  Cell phones and computers have sidetracked many today. Sometimes I think that Satan invented cell phones to distract us from what God would have for us.  It is so distracting to try and carry on a conversation with someone who can’t seem to take their eyes off their phone. I've see people in church play with their phones instead of listening to the word of God being preached.
     Distractions are everywhere, tugging on our arms, filling our eyes and tickling our ears -- anything to try and lure our hearts and minds off the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus told His followers that spiritual distraction begins with hearts that have grown dull, ears that are hard of hearing, and eyes that are closed (Matt. 13:15).  Using the illustration of a farmer scattering seed, Jesus compared the seed that fell among thorns to a person who hears God’s Word but whose heart is focused on other things. “… The care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.” (v 22)
4.  Don't play with it.   1 John 2:19  They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. 
     I can’t begin to tell you how many times I told my children to stop playing with their gum, “Keep it in your mouth.”  Playing with gum is usually the culprit of many accidents. We love to play games, it is part of the playful spirit God has given each and every one of us. But sometimes, when it comes to our relationship with God, the games we play don’t bring us joy and laughter.  
     The true church of Jesus Christ is not a religious institution which welcomes everybody, it is the body of Jesus Christ that is set apart (holy) unto God.   We are the bride of Christ and we have been redeemed by faith.  It is our DUTY as Christians to warn those who have not received Christ, to warn them in love but to warn them nonetheless how they are in danger of the terror of the Lord.  Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:11, "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." The Apostle says that when he stops to think about the coming of the judgment of God, he get busy sharing the gospel. This was the command of Christ; and this is our responsibility!
      Read Luke 6:46.  It is a warning to those who are comfortably seated in the church or who think they are -- but in reality they are not.  This is not a warning to outside people. This is a warning to us who are involved in the church to be sure that it's real.  And I think it only fair that we stop and really approach this with a sense of sobriety and earnestness, to understand how we stand in view of God right now as individuals.
The following verse is carved on an old marble slab in a cathedral of Lubeck, Germany. It dates back to the 1400’s (800 years ago) and it goes like this,

             “Thus speaketh Christ our Lord to us:
You call Me Master and obey Me not,
You call Me light and see Me not,
You call Me the way and walk Me not,
You call Me life and live Me not,
You call Me wise and follow Me not,
You call Me fair and love Me not,
You call Me rich and ask Me not,
You call Me eternal and seek Me not,
You call Me gracious and trust Me not,
You call Me noble and serve Me not,
You call Me mighty and honor Me not,
You call Me just and do not accept My justice.
If I condemn thee, blame Me not."

Obedience is what service is about.  Calling Christ “Lord” or anything else is not enough, it is doing the will of God that is the answer.

5.  Don't Pop2 Cor. 4:16-18  For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, an which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
     Have you ever been going along in your walk with the Lord and everything seems to be going smoothly.  Then all of a sudden someone or something hits you like a ton of bricks?  You got that dreaded phone call.  Or you hear that someone has talked badly about you.  Just like my children would love to pop their sibling’s bubble when they least expected it, your bubble pops.  It seems like all the air in you escapes. 
     This verse tell us that we should “faint not”.  The Greek word here means “to be weary in heart” or “to lose courage”.  In verse 1, Paul says he faints not!  The idea is perseverance -- being persistence throughout the Christian life. Like a runner lasting to the end of the race, the Christian is to keep going and keep trusting Jesus.  We can get so easily distracted by the things that Satan hurls at as, that we sometimes fail to see the bigger picture of eternity. There are three steps that these verse give to help us.
A.  We are being renewed.  The first reason to not lose heart is shown through a comparison between the outward man and the inward man. The outward man (the old man) belongs to this world, that is riddled by sin and is slowing dying. The inward man (the new man) belongs to the world to come, is being made more and more like Jesus -- she is being renewed. 
     Every day, we are becoming more like Jesus.  Often, we often focus on external things: appearance; beauty; bettering ourselves.  But in itself, this is futile. We are focusing on the wrong things!  Don’t pop - Jesus is renewing us.
B.  We will obtain glory.  The second reason to not faint is shown through a comparison between the troubles we face (light, affliction, moment) and the glory to come (glory, weight, eternal).  Paul compares the trials of life to the glories of heaven!  What is the glory? It's the beauty, wonder, magnificence and splendor of God.  And we get to share in that!  We must get through the hard stuff but keep going. Don't lose heart - know that something better, infinitely better is coming!
C.  We will live foreverThe third reason to not to deflate is shown through a comparison between what is temporary and what is eternal.  Remember the things we see here and now will not last: Pain, troubles, sorrow, grief, hobbies, earthly riches.   These things are temporary. To focus all our attention on these things is to fail to see big picture!  We need to learn to keep our eyes on eternal values: What are some of these? ________ ______________________________________________________

We can't allow other people or circumstances to pop our bubbles.  We have to just keep on doing what we know is right and serving the Lord to the best of our ability.

Conclusion:  I hope we can avoid some of the traps of being gummed up in life.  I don't want someone to look under a desk someday and find me in a wad, dried out, and stuck fast.  I know I need to start by drawing closer to the Lord.  I have to pray more and stay in His Word more. 
I want my life to count for the Lord.  I want to make a difference.  In order to do that I have to remember that the Christian life is all about being that salt and light of the earth.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Busy as a Bee!

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Colossians 3:23 

     Today is Servant Appreciation Sunday and I wanted to pick out a servant in the Bible to use.  So, I decided to use my favorite character - Judge Deborah!   However, when I got to looking more deeply into this Deborah, I found that there were actually two women in the Bible that were named Deborah.  Their name means ‘honeybee,” a word that may bring to mind the old adage “Busy as a bee” and thoughts of a cute little insect that stays busy flitting from flower to flower making honey.  Then again, if you have ever stepped on one on a summer day while walking barefoot in the grass, you may have thoughts of its painful stinger.  Both of these Deborahs show two sides of the honeybee’s character.
    In each successful colony, there are three types of bees: the queen bee (female), worker bee (female) and the drones (males - which we are not going to discuss in this lesson). Each of these bees has their own characteristics, roles, and responsibilities in the colony.  Each of them is essential for the well-being of the colony.  BUT upon closer examination, the three types of bees look different. 
     The industrious worker bees clean the hive, collect the pollen and nectar to feed the colony and she also take care of the offspring.  For protection, the worker bee has a stinger with a barb on the end - if she stings you, it is left behind.  However, while defending her home, the bee can sting other insects time again and again.
     We know that the queen bee is vastly different in appearance from the other bees in the hive.  She is the heart and soul of the colony.  She stands out and is easily recognized.  The queen’s two primary purposes are to produce a chemical scent that helps regulate the unity of the colony and to lay eggs - and lots of them.  The queen also has a stinger that is smooth and long for vicious attacks.
     I would like to take the two roles of the female bees and compare them to our two Deborahs mentioned in the Bible. 

A.  Worker Bee - You will find that the first Deborah recorded in the Bible is in the book of Genesis.  She was Rebekah’s nurse.  When Rebekah left her home to be married to Isaac, the son of Abraham, her nurse went with her (Genesis 24:59).  The nurse had cared for Rebekah as a child and then attended her as she prepared to be married.  Deborah’s job continued during Rebekah’s married life. When Rebekah gave birth to twin boys, Jacob and Esau, I imagine Deborah was kept very busy.  Through the years living with Rebekah, her husband and her children, Deborah became a well-loved and valuable member of the family. 
     There are not many verses that record the death of a faithful servant - but her death is recorded in Genesis 35:8.  We are told that she was buried under an oak tree which they named “Allon Bachuth”, meaning “oak of weeping,” – a lovely tribute to the devoted servant who served her mistress and family with lots of love and devotion. 
      What an important woman the first Deborah must have been!  Not only is her name mentioned.  But her death and burial is recorded.  AND in her honor, her burial site is named.
     Deborah was a true servant for Rebekah and her household.  She was a “worker bee”.  Today as we honor the servants of Simferopol Baptist Church - let’s look at some of the characteristic that this Deborah (a true servant of the Lord) portrayed. 
1.  A Thankful Servant (Rom. 1:8).   Throughout Paul’s epistles he repeatedly reminds us that we need to be thankful servants (Phil. 4:6, Col. 3:15, 1 Tim. 2:1).  In fact, he told the Church in Thessalonica that giving thanks to God is the will of our Lord Jesus Christ for the Christian (1 Thess. 5:18).  And he will shortly tell the Church in Rome that un-thankfulness is a step in the path that leads a man away from God, “they became vain in their imaginations and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Rom. 1:21) - all because they were unthankful.  Because of God faithfulness, promises, love and mercy to His people - we need to be thankful!
2.  A Praying Servant (Eph. 6:18).  If we are going to be servants of God, we need to understand the seriousness of our need to pray to Him regularly.  We know that we ought to pray and pray often, but many times circumstances crowd into our lives, competing for our attention. These slowly suffocate our spiritual health.  How many inner spiritual struggles; how many conflicts within our own souls; how many crises of faith and moments of doubt could be resolved if we were to admit that we do not always pray as often as we should? 
      It seems so obvious, so utterly perceptive that our deepest trials, our toughest battles could be swiftly overcome; not by standing firmly on our feet, but by falling to our knees in prayer! Yet we do not.  We need to pray not because of our battle with the Devil, or because of the pain of those around you. We need to pray because of the sweetness that comes from spending time with the Father.
3.  A Fully Submitted Servant (Heb. 13:17).  I believe with my whole heart that Deborah was a submitted servant - faithful and true - following Rebekah where-so-ever she went.   This should be an example to us as we follow Christ.  Not only are we to be fully surrendered but we are to submit to Christ to His Words. 
     Adjoined with trust is the realization of surrender, a term usually associated with defeat   However, its usage here means that a believer completely gives up his own will and yield his thoughts, ideas and deeds to the Word and will of God. 
     James 4:15 also tells us how we should live. How? ________________________. A true servant is a submitted one - one that is totally dependent upon God in everything they do.  
4.  A Giving Servant (2 Peter 1:5).   I also believe that this Deborah was a giving servant.  There is no mention of her having a family of her own.  No mention of her having a life outside of her service to Rebekah.  She gave everything in order to better serve her mistress. 
     In these verse, what are we to GIVE diligence to?  Faith, to virtue, to knowledge, to temperance, to patience, to godliness, to brotherly kindness.   The last one is the one that everything before it leads to -- serving others.  It is a agape love that binds each of us together as a family.  It is a love that holds each one of us closely to the hearts of the other.  It is a love that shows concern about the welfare of one another. God desires that we serve others without expecting something in return.  Without a question, we are servants of God and He did not call any of us to sit at home or church and have people serve us, but rather we are called to serve others.  Godliness (1 Tim. 2:10) is loving people unconditionally and doing good to them without expecting anything back – not even love or appreciation.
5.  A Humble Servant (v.12).  Humility is NOT a trait of a worldly  person.  Just look at any politician, movie star, or executive director.  However, to be a good servant, one must first be humble.  Envy and jealousy will leave one unfit for the Lord's service.  Are we joyous when good things happen to other Christians?  Do we give glory to God to whom it belongs, or do we pout because we were not praised or recognized?  Are we willing to "serve one another" (1 Pet. 5:5) and "edify one another" (Rom. 14:19)?
     A great definition of humility is given by Paul: "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." (Phil. 2:4).    
    I believe that Rebekah’s servant, Deborah, possessed all of the traits of a Worker Bee - A Faithful Servant.  And then she was found worthy to be recorded in the book of Genesis.   But there is another bee in the hive (colony) with a totally different characteristic and thus we have another Deborah.

B.  A QUEEN BEE - The second Deborah lived about 700 years later.  Her story is in the book of Judges chapters 4 and 5.  Her mission was quite different from the first Deborah.  She had to be strong and assertive in a man’s world. She was a prophetess and the only female judge (leader) of Israel.  But she was also a wife.  The Bible simply tells us that Deborah was the wife of Lappidoth.  Another amazing fact is that she was a judge under a palm tree in the same location that the first Deborah was buried under the weeping oak.
     Women leaders in the Old Testament are few and far between.  However, Deborah’s story is enough to make any woman honored to have her name.  Deborah was a prophetess and led Israel during a time when her people were being oppressed by the pagan king of Canaan.  Deborah was a “busy bee” indeed.  She served as counselor, judge, wife, and warrior.  Deborah held court under a Palm tree which became known as the Palm of Deborah.
      One day, Deborah called for Barak, one of the leaders of the Israeli army.  God had given her instructions for this mighty warrior whose name meant “Thunderbolt.”  As he approached the tree, she passed along his marching orders direct from his Commanding Officer…God.  He was to go into battle. (Judges 4:6-7)  
     Barak cowered at God’s command and like a little boy said, “If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go” (Judges 4:8).  Deborah replied in the next verse (9) “I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman”. 
      Now Barak wasn’t just a little scared.  He had first-hand knowledge of King Jabin’s vast army and their iron chariots.  Humanly, he had reason to be afraid.... What did he lack? Faith in God. However, with Deborah at his side, the both of them went off to battle.  God (Jehovah-Jireh) did deliver King Jabin’s army along with Captain Sisera to the children of Israel and they had a great victory.  What happened to Sisera and how was the prophecy in Judges 4:9 fulfilled? _______________________ _______________________________ ______________________________
     You say - wow that is a wonderful story from the Word of God but what does it hold for me today?  It tells us much about Deborah characteristics.  You see, her actions reveal her true character.  We do not know much about her early history.  However, her insight/gifts were obviously recognized as genuine or else the sons of Israel would not have come to her for judgment in the beginning. Wow—and these were men! Actually submitting to the decision of a woman for their case. When Deborah told the nation to go into battle they trusted her and believed she had actually heard from the Lord. And of course she had!

1.  Deborah was a woman of Strength (2 Cor. 12:9) - she was a prophetess.  It all began with her spiritual position as a prophetess. This distinguished her from all the other judges. None of them were given this title.  It also speaks of her spiritual character.  We also see she was a married woman with the responsibilities of being a wife. Since her age is not given, we cannot state what phase of family life she might have been experiencing. As a prophetess, God used her to deliver His messages to His people. Deborah was also recognized for her sense of decency and order. We know this because, as a prophetess, she was careful to voice God’s will, and not her own. She was yielded to Him. 
      She did not try to get ahead of God and seek authority that did not belong to her.  Carnally, she could have taken advantage on her reputation for making good judgments. She could have, as Miriam the prophetess briefly did (see Numbers 12), tried to exalt herself. But Deborah knew her boundaries. 
     In Deborah’s Song, her love for the Lord is described as "be as the sun when he goeth forth in His might." (Judges 5:31) She knew that it was God Almighty!  Most probably this is the reason why God chose Deborah to communicate His Will to the Nation of Israelite.  
2.  Deborah was a woman of Confidence (Eph. 3:12) - she was a judge!  Her location for fulfilling her duties as a judge is very specific. The cities of Ramah and Bethel were about four miles apart on a line north of Jerusalem. This is the same area where the prophet Samuel later judged Israel (1 Samuel 7:16). Deborah held court under a palm tree. 
     Deborah did not limit God. She did not think to herself, “Oh, I’m just a woman. God couldn’t possibly use me.” Deborah accepted her roles as judge and allowed God to use her as He saw fit.   She was sure of God’s call in her life.  Deborah was plain spoken and direct, honest, decisive and courageous. No babbling. No shirking from hard choices. She probably saw life pretty much in black and white—no gray areas to hesitate over.
3.  Deborah was a woman of Challenge (James 1:2-4) - she was a warrior!  Deborah reprimanded Barak for his lack of faith (Judges 4:9), but she did not shame him nor did she step in and do his job for him.  She acknowledged that he was the warrior who was to lead the men into battle and she was the prophetess who would ride along to encourage and inspire.  Deborah didn’t take the lead, but rather worked with Barak to accomplish God’s goals. 
      It is one thing to give orders but to ride along side of Barak took courage!  I can imagine Deborah sitting high up on the horse - dressed ready for battle.  She was ready to fight in case it came to it.  And when the battle began, she spurred him on with encouraging words (Judges 4:14): “THIS IS THE DAY”!  Just like Esther said, “For such a time as this” (Esther 4:14), I believe Deborah was also ready to give all of herself to the task at hand.
     Barak was inspired by this amazing woman.  She pumped courage into his failing heart and he did indeed follow God into battle.  She taught him not to focus on the nine hundred iron chariots of the opponents but on the mighty arm of God.  That day, the LORD confused Sisera and Israel easily routed their enemy. 
4.  Deborah was a woman of Influence - she was a wife and possibly a mother!  I can’t help but believe that her strong leadership created an atmosphere helpful for other women to flourish. The Bible did not tell us if there were children in the home.   Nor do we read of any conflict between her and her husband with the role God had selected for Deborah. We do not read that Lapidoth had a problem with her putting God first rather than himself, nor do we read that he hindered her service to God in any way or was resentful of it.
      Rather we can assume because Deborah was a wife, she was of good character and had a godly influence in the home. Also due to her position and love for God, she must have encouraged her husband to be Godly and ultimately won the Israelite respect for her husband as well.
5. Deborah was a woman of Praise (Judges 5) - she was a song writer!  When reading through the book of Judges, there is one chapter that could be easily by-passed when looking for the next judge. In doing so, we miss a poetic description of the preceding events as they recap God's deliverance. 
    Chapter five records a song that both Deborah and Barak sang after the great victory over all of King Jabin’s vast armies.  One of the first things that are praised in this song of victory was the willingness of a few of the people to be used of the Lord, (Judges 5:1-3).  Deborah was willing to be used by the Lord and great things happened. 
      Deborah stood for courage in a time of fear. She stood for godly wisdom in a time of human reasoning, when “every man did what was right in his own eyes.” She stood for decency and order in a chaotic time of sexual perversity and idolatry.  Deborah was a leader who was an exception to the rule in her time. The end result was a double portion of victory. “And the land was undisturbed for forty years.” (Judges 5:31)

Summary:  Two women named "honeybee;" one a humble maid servant and the other a great leader who humbly gave glory to God. Both Deborahs devoted themselves to the life that God gave them.  Both of them were successful.  Whether our role in life is nurse maid or whether it is the leader of a country, acknowledgement of God and humble obedience to Him are important keys to success.