Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bubbles! Bubbles! Toils & Troubles

Lesson 22 - July 22
Bubbles! Bubbles! Toils and Troubles 

Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.  Matthew 26:41 
    Recently in Germany, I was watching my grandsons blow soap bubbles out in the yard. They were having such a good time, running after them, trying to pop them, and just playing with them in general.  As I was watching, it struck me that we treat the things and pleasures of this world as we do those soap bubbles that we blew as children. We run after them and chase them, touch them, try to catch them, and see how far we can get involved with them without them popping.
So why do we chase worldly bubbles?

1.  Worldly Bubbles Entice Us. James 1:14  But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.    When those soap bubbles are blowing in the wind, they seem to just entice us and draw us to them. Worldly pleasures are like that too. We see an advertisement in a magazine, something on television, or something associated with the world that just lures us and pulls us in.  Temptations are all around us.
     In Luke 15 the prodigal son was drawn to the world and all it’s pleasures.  Let’s look at the two things that the prodigal son wanted in verse 12.
· Give ME my inheritance   He wanted money and the things and possession of the world which he was to inherit.  He wanted to get all the father would give him so he could enjoy it NOW.   He had not earned it; therefore, he did not deserve it.  He was selfish and self- centered, and disrespectful - but this didn’t matter to him.
· Give ME my independence  This is what he really wanted - the rights to his own life. He wanted freedom - to make his own decisions.  Sadly, he got all he wanted.  Don’t know why the father gave in, maybe he had hoped his son would come to his senses.
      Luke 15:13 says that the son wasted his substance and lived how? riotous living --  He lived extravagantly and he lived with harlots (vs. 30).   He had wrapped his life up in the pleasure and security of the world; but when his money was gone, everything was gone (just like the bubbles), there was nothing left to help him.  As a result:
A. He suffered destitution.   vs. 14
B.  He suffered natural disaster - a famine struckvs. 14
C.  He suffered enslavement and humiliation  vs. 15
D. He suffered the loss of all friends vs. 16
E.  He suffered hunger vs. 17
      Praise the Lord that the son did come to his senses (vs. 17).  He remembered how his father had been able to provide for him. He remembered the sense of belonging, of being part of a family and of the many times of fellowshipping together among all the friends and servants of his father.  He remembered the love, joy and peace that his father had and he hoped that the father had a little more to spare.
      We are surrounded with worldly bubbles and we must resist them and avoid being tempted by them.  What does Proverbs 1:10 tells us to do if sinners entice us? consent thou not.   None of us are immune to the influences of the world, and neither are our children.  We need to remain focused and strongly aware that each of us can be deceived.  If we are not careful, we will give in to enticing temptations.  We need to prayerfully guard ourselves and our children from going along with fleshly desires such as: dressing like the world, listening to the wrong type of music, smoking, drinking, hatefulness. 
Write I Corinthians 10:13: _____________________________________________

   2.  Worldly Bubbles Are PrettySoap bubbles are amazing to watch. Aren't they? All those reflections of light just make them so beautiful to look at.  The world can make sin look pretty too.  The devil is masterful at deceit.  It is his trademark and we are to be on guard for it. 
    'My Goodness' Satan and the world does their best to make sin so beautiful and appealing.  The billboards around town show women in enticing clothing telling you to come to their bar.  There are advertisements showing how cool it is to smoke and drink.  There are music videos on television that says sex is fun.  
      This reminds me of David when he was up on his roof in the cool of the evening and he so happens to look over to another roof top and sees a woman bathing. This is perhaps one of the most well-known stories in the Old Testament.  David sinned. He should have been at war but he wasn't.  He couldn't sleep so he got up and roamed his palace. He was bored. We have an old wives saying: "Idle hands are the devil's tools."  Notice the progression of sin: 2 Samuel 11:2-4
· David LOOKED.  He saw a woman bathing.
· David ADMIRED her.  He noticed her beauty - it was more than just a passing glance.
· David INQUIRED about her.  He took it to the next level, making it more personal. 
· David CONTACTED her. 
· David SINNED with her.
      Sin begins with a thought, with a gentle pulling on the flaws of our heart.  We don’t just fall head first into a full blown sin (the sleeping with Bathsheba part).  It is a progression that could have been stopped in its tracks at any time.  David could have: 
· Looked away. 
· Not sent the messengers. 
· Tore up the information. 
· Controlled the thoughts he was having about the woman. 
· Not invited her to his palace.    
     There is always an escape route.  You may say -- “Oh, that was just a man. Women are different!”  We as women are not immune to Satan’s attraction and appeals - we are just as guilty. It totally shocks me as the way women want to dress in the summertime.  If you go out to the village, you will see people working in their underwear.  You go to a restaurant near the beach and you will see people sitting in their underwear.  I admit, in this heat, I also would like to go to the beach and splash in the water.  But I must be careful to not only keep my body covered decently but that I am not being expose (or my family) to other people who have such little regard for morality.
1 John 2:16  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
   Satan made sin beautiful - our flesh desires to have its beauty but the ends thereof are the destruction, failure, disappointment, guiltiness and death.

3.  Worldly Bubbles Are FunChildren have so much fun with soap bubbles.  At a wedding in Kharkov last month, we blew bubbles on the bride & groom as they exited the church. However, before the bride and groom came out, we were already blowing bubbles at one other - we were all acting like children!  Sin has a way of enticing us with fun too.  Sin promises pleasure without consequences, love without commitment, fulfillment without sacrifice. Sin pledges that things, circumstances, and/or people will satisfy you without God’s direction or blessing.
    Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10) come to my mind when thinking about chasing worldly bubbles.  Sapphira means “beautiful.”  Ananias means “Jehovah is gracious,” and God certainly had been gracious to him for He had given him a beautiful wife, blessed him with material possessions, forgiven his sins, and brought him into fellowship with people who truly cared for him. A man couldn’t ask for much more than that. Their names make them sound like they were a perfect couple! 
      But Ananias wanted more, and so did his wife.  In Acts, Christians were donating land to give to the poor and persecuted Christian.  The Christians who sold their possessions and gave the money to the church probably received enthusiastic praise from the entire congregation.  AND Ananias & Sapphira wanted this praise. They wanted to be more than just members of the church; they wanted to be ‘prominent’ members.  They wanted the recognition and praise -- and that brings us to their sin. 
      Ananias and Sapphira also owned some property and so they schemed together and came up with a plan to sell it while holding back some of the profit for themselves.  They would still look good at the church and make some extra cash on the side. They probably already had ideas what to spend it on.   Thus began their chasing after bubbles. 
      Let’s look at the impact of their punishment.  The Apostle Peter did not call down judgment from heaven.  He merely exposed Ananias’ hypocrisy by the insight God gave him. “And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last” (Acts 5:5). God popped his bubble quickly.  We do not know how they got Ananias buried without Sapphira knowing about it, but they did.  Maybe they could not find Sapphira at the moment. She may have been off on a shopping spree, spending some of that money they had deceitfully held back.  Three hours later she came in looking for her husband, oblivious to what had transpired.  You know the story -- her bubble quickly popped too.
     If we could just make better choices like Moses did.   We know that Hebrews chapter 11 lists the “Heroes of Faith”.   In verse 24 - 26 it says:  "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt:
     For 40 years Moses had everything that a person on earth could ever want: education, fame, wealth, possessions, power, responsibility, and a home!  But Moses gave it all up.  He sacrificed everything for God and His promises.  Look at all the things that Moses accomplished for God because of that choice of not chasing the worldly bubbles that were blowing right in the wind before him.  Think at how much we could have accomplish for Christ if we'd be a little more focused on Jesus and not on the bubbles world has to offer.  
      Every time Moses turned away from what was in the world and every time he chose to walk by faith in God, God never failed to show Himself mighty on behalf of his behalf. 
Conclusion: Kids learn quickly that bubbles are fragile. Sometimes you can put your hand out and catch them but without much force normally they'll pop and dissipate. When you start messing around with sin and worldly bubbles, you will find they too pop quickly. Worldly ways are not satisfying. There is no substance to them. They'll dissipate into the wind without warning.   AND there will always be consequences to deal with.  Just as we saw with the Prodigal Son and with King David -- they suffered the consequences of the folly of their sins.  A man once said “While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions.” 
       If we are living for Christ, fellowshipping with Him on a daily basis, engaging in a strong prayer life, then we'll be more able to resist those bubbles that come floating by to tempt us. Only toils and troubles will come in the end if we aren't living for Christ, as we should be.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Godly Example


2 Timothy1:1-5, 3:14-15
      The world has changed so much -- and continues to change almost daily.   Children are discouraged to take their Bibles to school.  The 10 commandments and the cross is removed from public buildings.  Music encourages our children to live ungodly.  Television shows and movies are full of violence and immorality.   Video games occupy our children's minds and times.    We have a tremendous job ahead of us.  And sometimes it sees almost impossible.   We need to protect our children and instill into the love of God and value of serving Him.

     I have heard many testimonies from Christians through the years that have told me how their grandmother prayer for them and encouraged them to be faithful to God.  Lois and her daughter, Eunice, are mentioned only once in the Bible.  Not much is said about this godly mother and grandmother but that which is recorded tells an amazing and very important story.

    The apostle Paul wrote two personal letters to Timothy who was a young church leader.  In 2 Timothy 1:2, Paul called him "my beloved son."  Timothy was his spiritual son and one of Paul's beloved apprentice.

     Timothy was just a child when Paul visited Lystra on his first missionary journey.  He was probably somewhere around 10 - 12 years old at that time and he was still a young man when Paul wrote his first letter to him (I Tim 4:12).  All this means Timothy was somewhere around 18 years old when Paul met him on his second missionary travel. 

    In Acts 16:1-3 we find that Timothy's mother was a Jewess but she was a believer.  Timothy's father was a Greek.  Since his father is not recorded here, it is most likely that his father knew little about God.  It seems through scripture that Timothy received his spiritual training through his mother and grandmother.   We are told that Timothy had been taught the Holy Scriptures since he was an infant.  

When Paul met Timothy, Timothy was already a Christian believer with a strong and firm testimony.  Timothy’s maturity and importance are seen in Acts 16 when the word “he” of verse one is changed very rapidly to “they” of verse four.  Timothy became a son to Paul (1 Cor. 4:17).    He was esteemed so highly and loved so deeply by Paul that Paul said he was the one man whose mind was at one with his own (Phil 2:19).  He was probably chosen by Paul to become Paul’s successor (Phil. 1:1).  From this point on, he was seen either ministering with Paul, or else being sent out by
Paul to minister to certain churches.  Timothy was also imprisoned with Paul (2 Tim. 4:11,12) .
      The man that Timothy turned out to be started back as a young child - receiving godly training and instruction from his godly mother (Eunice) and grandmother (Lois).  Let’s look at what made Timothy who he became.

1.  Eunice & Lois introduced faith to Timothy at an early age2 Timothy 3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  
Eunice was a devout Hebrewess, and regarded it as one of the important duties of her religion to train her son in the careful knowledge of the word of God.  The Greek word here used for ‘child’ -- means infant (this even applies to the unborn child as it does in Luke 1:41, 44; 2:12,16).  Each of these references make it probable that Timothy had been taught the Scriptures as soon as he was capable of learning anything.  This means:
(1) that it is right to teach the Bible to children at as early a period of life as possible.  Research has proven that babies in the womb even respond to music, speech and other stimuli.  Proverbs 22:6  
(2) that there is reason to hope that such instruction will not be forgotten  (Psalms 119:11) but will have a valuable influence on their future lives. The faithfulness of Timothy is traced by the apostle to the fact that he had been early taught to read the Scriptures. Think about this --- It was Timothy who wrote  2 Timothy 3:16   He said that ALL scripture was given by inspiration and is profitable for instruction!
(3) it is appropriate to teach the Old Testament to children - since this was all that was available for Eunice & Lois to teach to Timothy -- the means of his salvation.  Again we see the verse in 2 Timothy 3:16 that says all scripture.
(4) That it is important to continue to teach the scriptures to the children as they grow.  Deuteronomy 6:7 tells us when we should teach our children:  Talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.   This about sums it up, huh?

2.  Eunice and Lois’s set a Godly example in their home.  I Timothy 1:5 which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice;   
The faith started with Lois (the grandmother).   Lois had become a sincere believer in Christ.  She then taught her daughter Eunice in the ways of her faith. In the Acts of the Apostles Acts 16:1, we have an account of the family of Timothy: - “Then came he to Derbe and Lystra; and behold a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek.”  This verse says that the mother of Timothy was “a Jewess, and believed;” It also states that his father was not a believer.  It was against the law for a Jew to marry a woman of other nations, or for a man to give his daughter in marriage to a Gentile, Ezra 9:12.  But it seems that this law was not regarded very strictly by the Jews at this time who lived in the midst of pagan nations.
    His grandmother and mother taught him from the Old Testament.  Timothy learned that
there is one true God, that the Messiah had been promised, and you are blessed when you live by faith.  Most likely, they also told him stories that had circulated about Jesus Christ of Galilee -- of his birth, death and resurrection (remember believers were being scattered abroad out from Jerusalem because of the persecution). 
It is good to teach children how to help in the home and how to have the best work ethics.  It is good that children learn in school and participate in sports BUT the most important teaching that we as mothers and grandmothers can give to them is the Bible, the Word of God.  Attract the children away from TV and video games and read to them Bible stories. 
· What are some ways that we can encourage them to become acquainted with God’s Word:    Songs, Devotionals, teaching them to Pray (start by praying before a meal) or Bible stories (that are on their level) play a game that would promote Bible education.
This mother and grandmother emphasized the Holy Scriptures. I imagine that Timothy watched his mother respect and honor his unbelieving father in the home.  He watched his mother and grandmother lived a godly example before him.  They were honest, they were kind and helpful to others.  Not only did they teach him in the way of the Lord but they LED him in the way. 
· His mother and grandmother loved God above all else even to the point of becoming selfless  --  this is where Timothy received his love for God.  Deut. 6:5
· His mother and grandmother had an undying faith in God that never wavered  --  this is where Timothy’s FAITH to God became strong.  Romans 10:17
· His mother and grandmother read the scriptures and prayed every day -- this is where Timothy realized the importance of scripture - thus two books of the Bible where written just to him.  Psalms 119:9-11
· His mother and grandmother followed the teachings of Jesus Christ in their lives -- this is where Timothy grew up wanting to serve Jesus with his whole life.
· His mother and grandmother told people they met where God had brought them from to where they are now -- this is where Timothy developed a desire to become a missionary just like Paul.  Psalms 100:2
  Titus 2:7 says that we are to be a pattern of good works.

3.  Eunice & Lois passed on a faith that effected Timothy for a lifetime.   In I Timothy 1:5, Paul wrote “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee” that was where first? His mother and grandmother.  Eunice and Lois passed on a godly heritage - a heritage of sincere faith.  It was not hypocritical or two-faced. They walked with God and did not walk away from their faith. 
Eunice and Lois taught him to be genuine and honest -- they “Talked the talk and walked the walk”.  I can hear them say:  “ Timothy -- you are a Christian, we will faithfully read the Bible and pray together everyday.  We will attend church every week and serve the Lord.  Timothy, keep your word… use kind words .... be honest.  Timothy, you need to have the right friends; friends that will help you be a better follower of Christ. ”   Our children should be encouraged to live for Christ --- they face many more challenges today than we did as children.   However, it is still our duty to teach them.  Teach them how to dress modestly and not as the world (bikinis, short shorts, plunging
necklines, midriffs showing) - this begins at an early age.  Instruct them to watch their attitude about sin and how it grieves God.  They should be taught how to keep themselves pure morally.  They should instructed from the Word of God to live by Godly principles.
      I believe the life of faith is developed with spiritual habits; it is not a one-time ‘mountain top’ experience.  God uses spiritual practices to shape our lives, in the same way that water shapes a rock.  A drop of water won’t change the shape of a rock.  A steady stream of water, flowing for a long time, begins to smooth the rough places of a rock.  Faith for a  lifetime is what we need to instill in our children and grandchildren.  A faith that never wavers but is steadfast and sure.  How can we possess this kind of faith?

4.    Eunice & Lois faith influenced Timothy was sustaining faithI Timothy 1:5, 2 Timothy 1:5  In other words... Yes, they did teach Timothy that faith in Christ was important and that his faith should not waver.  But more than that they taught him that his faith in Christ would keep him not only when it was easy but also when taking a stand could cost him friends, family, comfort and/or even his own life. 
You see, Timothy was living in a era were it was easy to forsake Christ -- a time when there were many false teachers (sounds familiar doesn’t it?).   One of the major reasons for Timothy’s strength in the Lord was the strong faith that his mother and grandmother passed on to him.  And now Timothy was an adult and the faith that he had seen working in his mother and grandmother, he now possessed!  Verse five says, “I am persuaded that in thee also.”  Paul implied that Timothy’s faith lived or dwelled in him and that it was a faith that was there to stay, 24/7.   Today, a whole generation is being lost as parents aren’t influencing their children for Jesus. The 30-40 year olds stay home from church and their children don’t hear the Bible stories that are so important in forming our foundational Christian principles.

How had Timothy become such a productive, faithful, and important minister in God’s work? It all started when he was a little boy. It all started with little things.  May we be faithful to the job that God has given us for our children/grandchildren. Let us not give up. And let us remember the promise of Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

Well Dressed Feet

Lesson 21 - July 15, 2012
"The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD:and he delighteth in his way."  Psalm 37:23

    When I was young my mother always had a thing about making sure our shoes looked good, especially for Sundays. Every Saturday night, she would get our shoes out and clean them, polish them… and have them laid out neatly for church the next day.  My sisters and I had a pair of shoes that we wore only to church, a pair that we wore everyday to school, and a pair of tennis shoes or play shoes.  We were not like most Ukrainians -- we didn’t really own any house shoes.  We lived in the south and I ran barefoot through the house; and in the summer I ran barefoot outside.  Our yard always had nice green grass - and I still remember coming in at night and my feet would be stained green.  Our church shoes and school shoes were bought from a nice store but our play shoes were usually purchased at the local second hand store.  Since I was the oldest, I usually got the newer shoes and then they were passed down to my two sisters. 
      I can remember always getting into trouble about my shoes. My mother would say, “Judy, you are tearing up those shoes… How will Jackie ever be able to wear them?”  There was a  merry-go-round on our playground at grade school. That merry-go-round was one where we'd all hold on, run around the sides and then jump on. I just loved to sit on that merry-go-round, daydream, and just drag my feet across the dirt and rocks and it did some awful things to the tips of my shoes.
     My mother always seemed to be on us girls about our shoes, and I've grown to know that she was right. Our whole appearance can be spoiled by our shoes. If you have on a $1000  dress and have dirty or scuffed shoes, your appearance wouldn't be too attractive. It wouldn't matter how much you paid for your dress, people's eyes would be drawn to your feet. It makes a difference that they are clean and well kept.
Shoes are important because our feet are important. Our feet take us places and what we put our feet determines what direction we’re planning to go. What we wear on our 'spiritual' feet is just as important too. How we walk and how our steps are ordered will have an impact on us and those around us. Sometimes we need to be a little more selective on what shoes we find ourselves wearing as a Christian.

What Kind of Shoe Fits You?

Flats - Unexciting:   I know this may sound silly to you.  But, imagine flat shoes - as applied to our Christian life.  Sometimes we find ourselves kind of  “flat”.  We need motivation.  Sometimes we feel like we are just floating along in our Christian life - almost like a dead fish that floats down the river… not much happening.  Yes, we go to church and listen to the preaching but our prayer life isn’t like it is suppose to be.  Our personal devotional time is not what it is suppose to be. Maybe even sin has found root in our lives.    We find that we need to get energized and get excited about living the Christian life.  In Psalms 51:12, David says to the Lord, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit."  He had lost something - something very precious.   In other words, David was saying -- please let the joy of my salvation return.  This means that he had once know the happiness of being a close friend to God - but that joy had been taken away from him because of sin.  Sometimes we need to walk beyond our borders -- something out of our comfort zone and do more for Christ.

2.  Heels - UP-LIFTING.  I have always had a problem wearing heels -- for one thing, I am already tall and another is I have poor balance.  But I love looking at others ladies wearing heels.  
      One example of someone who was an up-lifter was Barnabas.  We find Barnabas first mentioned in Acts 4:36,37  -- he was such an encourager that they changed his name from Joses to Barnabas.   He became an encouragement to so many people when he voluntarily sold his land to help provide for the daily necessities for the Christians in Jerusalem.  We do not know if Barnabas was a wealthy man -- he may have given all he had to help others in need.   His giving was a great source of courage, hope and encouragement to others. They would become encouraged by the fact that God had answered their prayers -- that God had laid on the hearts of Christians in other cities to give even when things did not always go smoothly!   It would also give them the courage to share with others who were also in need.  Barnabas was such a godly example that he later went with Paul on several missionary journeys.  There are 28 verses in the New Testament that talk about Barnabas.  This one Bible example should be an inspiration to us that we too may become "encouragers" like Barnabas. 
     Do you find yourself lifting people up? Are you an encourager?   What a great pair of shoes to wear.  We all have times when we need encouragement so think how important it is to give it as well as receive it. "Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do."  1 Thessalonians 5:11

3.  Tennis Shoes - Running away  Do you find yourself running from your problems?  Sometimes we all feel this way -- Is there some place I can go to escape this problem?  We hope that if we just don't think about our problems, they'll just go away (like in the cartoons where the ostrich hides his head in the sand when she is afraid).   However, if we would just lean on God's strength a little more, we'd be able to better handle things that comes into our lives. "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.   Prov. 3:5,6
  • Jonah Ran:  He thought he could run from God.  God had called him to go to Nineveh (Jonah 1:2) but Jonah FLED and set sail to Tarshish (Jonah 1:3) which was actually in the opposite direction.  God wanted Jonah to tell a nation about His love and mercy.  Jonah did not want to do as God had told him.  He wanted to see this city destroyed.  Nineveh was the great enemy of his people. Perhaps Jonah had seen first-hand these cruel, ruthless and bloody Ninevites which came down periodically to his land and raid the Jews. Perhaps he had even suffered the loss of loved ones at the hands of these merciless people. The Ninevites were brutal and godless and sinful -- and Jonah hated them.   Jonah also knew that God was merciful and loving, and that He would/could save them.  So he decided he would try to flee from God -- even though he was a prophet, he knew from the scriptures that God was everywhere. Where did he expect to hide?
  • Elijah Ran:  Elijah ran from Jezebel in I Kings 19:2?   Elijah was a mighty prophet of God but when faced with a challenge, he thought it best to run.  He actually thought he was running for his life.  I really don’t understand why Elijah doubted that God would protect him this time. Elijah was focused on the evil Queen Jezebel instead of on the all-powerful God. This is like looking at a beautiful rose bush and seeing only thorns!  Elijah ran as far as his legs could carry him. He traveled over 90 miles away from Jezebel. He fled out of fear.  Elijah should have realized that no problem was too big for God - not even Queen Jezebel.  It is amazing that this same Elijah, who had just seen God rain down fire on Mount Carmel - who had seen the clouds open after a long drought now feels discouragement and disappointment. 
      At times, many of us are guilty of doing what Jonah and Elijah did. Even though God has taken away our sin, given us a new life, and continues to pour out His blessings on us, when something goes wrong, that one thing (the problem/challenge) is all we can see.  When we face obstacles or challenges, we need to fix our hearts and minds on Jesus.    Phil. 4:7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
      There is a race to be run -- Hebrews 12:1.  But we need to be running toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. We are not to be weary in our run.  We just need to make sure we are running in the right direction.

4. Boots - Prepare to take a stand   I know that in Ukraine, many women use boots as a fashion statement.  But out in the villages, boots are used for a different reason.  They are for comfort and protection.  The Bible says in Ephesians 6:15 that our feet are to be shod with what? The preparation of the gospel of peace.  This is definitely a picture of what ancient soldier wore to guard their feet. The Greek text literally says, “having under-bound the feet” that is, having shoes or boots bound on. The protection of the feet and ankles consisted of two parts.
      In Biblical times, soldier’s shoes/sandals were fitted with nails or spikes so that the soldier could maintain a firm footing (steadfast -- unmovable).  Then boots were fitted to the legs and designed to defend them from any danger.  The  upper parts of these boots (I Sam. 17:6) were made of brass and were generally used among the Greeks and Romans.  These attachments protected the soldier if another wanted to strike a low blow.
    The word "preparation" is a Greek word that refers to the ‘firm footing or solid understanding’.  This means that we, as Christians, should have a firm and solid understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  AND this alone is good reason for us to take a stand.  When the devil comes at us with all of his deception and tricks, we should have an awareness of who he (Satan) is and we need to make sure that we have a firm understanding - a firm footing - in the FAITH of Jesus Christ. 

  • Each of us needs to be at peace with God. This is the firm foundation beneath our feet. Someone once said, "No Jesus, no peace. Know Jesus, know peace."  This statement echoes the words of Isaiah: "But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. 'There is no peace,' saith my God, 'to the wicked'" (Isaiah 57:20-21).
  • Each of us need to stand fast in the peace of God. This involves casting all of our cares and anxieties on Him (I Peter 5:7) and yielding to His perfect will (Matthew 11:28-30). "And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful" (Colossians 3:15). The peace of God will become a reality to us as we abide in Christ.
  • ·Each of us are called to go and preach the Gospel of peace to the nations.  When Jesus commissioned His disciples to preach, He instructed them to bless a household they were invited to enter by saying, "Peace be to this house" (Luke 10:5). However, He also instructed His disciples to "shake off the dust" from their feet and let their peace return to them when people did not receive them (Luke 9:5-6). Why? Because those who reject the Gospel of peace are rejecting God's salvation.

5.  Sandals - Back to the old ways  Jer. 6:16  Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.   Sandals have been around since the beginning.  Men and women wore them in the OT and even Jesus wore them.  We still wear them today.  People may choose to wear sandals for several reasons, among them are economy (sandals require less material than shoes and are usually easier to construct) and comfort.  Usually, people wear sandals in warmer climates in order to keep their feet cool and dry
      In Jeremiah 6:16 the prophet exhorts us with regard to the old paths.  He uses the illustration of a man standing at an intersection, or at a fork in the road, watching.  This man is probably a traveler, a pilgrim. At these crossroads he must decide which way he will take.  There are different options.  There are new ways, recently built wide and easy to travel roads.  He observes, and he sees many people travel along these ways.  He knows he must find the old path, and so he asks some of those passing by where the old path is.  No one seems to be able to tell him.  They are all set on following the new way.  Finally, he finds an older traveler and asks him, and the man points him to a narrow well worn trail, hidden in the bushes.  The man says, “That is the ‘good way.’  Yes, almost everyone else travels the new way, but that is the good way that will lead to peace and rest.”

* Ask for the Old Path: The old paths are doctrine and are based on scripture.  The old paths state that Jesus Christ is the only way (John 14:6).  The old paths are Scripture’s teaching about man and who we really are – totally sinful and unable to save ourselves (Romans 3:10).  The old paths include what Scripture says about the cross and that He (Jesus) shed his blood and died for all men (John 3:16).  The old paths teach about the grace of God which is to all who will receive (Titus 2:11).  The old paths teach that we have a great commission to go and tell others (Mark 16:15). 
* Walk in the Old Path:  We are to follow the intended path that God has given to us; a way of Christian living, set down in His Word.  
Walk in the Spirit    Gal. 5:6
Walk in newness of life    Romans 6:4
Walk in love    Eph 5:2
Walk in wisdom    Col. 4:5
Walk in truth    3 John 1:4
Walk in the light    1 John 1:7
*  Set Up Sign Post in the Old Path:  In the Old Testament, Israel was commanded on several occasions to set up landmarks to show travelers the way to go and the way to return (Jeremiah 31:21).  In Genesis 28:18 Jacob made a pillar of stone and poured oil on it and named the place Bethel. Twenty years later, Jacob returns to the place and the stones were still there - marking the place - a reminder that God had met him there.
Time and Time again, the Old Testament memorials were made to show the people the way to God.  Today, we need to be setting up landmarks or sign post to show the old paths.
     What are some of the ways that we can set sign post up along the way?

6.  House Shoes -  Comfort  After a weary long day at work or a day of walking in the bazaar or just being on your feet all day, nothing is more relaxing, than going home, taking off your shoes and slipping into a pair of your favorite house shoes.   Besides all that, it is cultural to do so here in Ukraine.  We do not wear outdoor shoes inside. House shoes are cozy, easy to clean, easy to slip on and off --- just down right comfortable!  When it comes to your Christian life, do you find yourself like the house shoe slipper?   It’s affordable, easy to slip on and off, comfortable.
     Going to church is like putting on a pair of house shoe slippers.  We get to come home for a few minutes on Sunday and/or Wednesday night -- slip into our comfort zone, fellowship with other believers (our family), and dine around the Word of God.  But then we need to take these house shoe slippers off and go back into the world - Mark 16:15.  We need to  have the mind of Christ and serve Him.  
      We should push away from the table (so to speak) and get out of our comfort zone and live the way God intended us to live.  Hebrews chapter 11 is our “Hall of Faith” and now Hebrews starts 12 starts with the word “Wherefore” and it is a challenge for us.  "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”   Because of this cloud of witnesses and because we are looking unto Jesus, we need to keep on.  The answer is to get our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus.  This is a call for us to have a determined focus. We are to be looking at Jesus and nothing else!

I know I don't always put on the right pair of shoes but I hope I can improve at wearing the type of shoes that are well fitting of a Christian woman. The kind of style that enhances my walk with the Lord. If not, I know it will affect my whole appearance as a Christian.