Encouragement – “see pg 130”

The heart of the servant is what God looks at.  Being encouraged to do God’s will is not always what we want to hear.  We want Him to support us doing OUR will.

41 Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?” 42 The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? 43 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. 44 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45 But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. 46 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. 47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows.48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. ~ Luke 12:41-48(NIV)

“The Heart of a Servant” would have been a good title for this post.  Jesus declared Himself to be a “Servant of the Father” many times in scripture.  What was His heart?  Plainly, He loved us so much that He gave ALL on the cross for us.  Christ took our severe punishment (death) which we deserve even though He was blameless.  He was the One who has given much.  Therefore, since believers are to be like Him, much will be required of His followers.

Jesus is teaching in Luke 12:41-48 that there are basically three groups of servants and how a master dealt with each group:

  1. Faithful, sensible servants – rewarded
  2. Unfaithful, disobedient servants – received severe punishment
  3. Innocently disobedient servants – received light punishment

Group One:        The faithful obedient servants – This is the group that all Christians believe (or hope) they have membership in.  Group One will inherit God’s kingdom, but Jesus also reveals that it does not come without cost (verse 48b).  It’s called taking up our cross and following HimThe cross of every believer is to be the same as His cross.  Men will always exact a heavy penalty for those who they consider to be against the establishment.  The world will scoff, ridicule and persecute every believer who is dedicated to being a servant of the Father (like Jesus). Verses 43 and 44 are the scriptures that all believers love to hear, though; the ones that mention reward for faithful service.  Jesus gives a detailed description of Group One, represented by the churches of Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11) and Philadelphia (Rev. 3:8-12).  The church of Smyrna is the poor, but spiritually rich church, to which Jesus promises He will give the crown of life. The church of Philadelphia is known as the church that is loyal to Christ; the church that perseveres and is watchful for His coming.  Jesus promises the church of Philadelphia not only a crown of life, but for overcomers, a pillar in the temple of God and a permanent home in the temple of God; that the name of God, the new name of Christ, a brand new name for the church, and a new name for the New Jerusalem, will all be written upon them.  Group One is the group Jesus loves to love.

Group Two:        The unfaithful disobedient servants – The master cuts them to ribbons and then banishes them from His kingdom as unbelievers!  Harsh?  That is what Jesus said they deserved.  “Wouldn’t it be fair to just let us repent and forgive us?” cries Group Two.  It is the saddest thing to contemplate, but God knows the heart.  Evidently, Group Two does not have loyalty to the master or the heart of a servant.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”  ~ James 1:22 NIV

Group Three:     The innocently disobedient servants – This group could possibly be servants that Group Two influenced, trained, or misled.  They may not be doers of the Word simply because they don’t know what the Word says.  Maybe they never read it.  Or, they may have fallen prey to false teaching, immorality, or idolatry.  Skeptical?   A better description of Group Three is given by Jesus in His message to the seven churches found in the Book of Revelation chapters 2-3. The other five churches besides Smyrna and Philadelphia are listed:

  1. Church of Ephesus – Fundamental Doctrine, but lacking Love
  2. Church of Church of Pergamos – False Doctrine, immorality
  3. Church of Thyatira – Allowed a False Prophetess to teach
  4. Church of Sardis – Dead works
  5. Church of Laodicea – Lukewarm

“Weren’t we just carnal Christians or backsliders?” asks Group Three.   Jesus encourages Group Three to repent and be overcomers.

Page 130 of Dad’s Bible contains Christ’s instructional encouragement to believers.  Instructional encouragement is based on “here is the truth.  These are your options and there are consequences – you choose”.

The “take-away” for this writer in layman’s language is:

Jesus lovingly instructed Group One, “Great job!  Keep doing what you are doing.  I will be back soon.  Hold down the fort until I come.  If you need help, I left more instructions in My Word.  Send me messages for guidance.  I will answer.  Stand strong, don’t give up, and you will be rewarded.”

Jesus banished Group Two with “Depart from Me!  I never knew you!”

Jesus praised Group Three, “I know you thought you were serving me, but you have made some mistakes, and have been suffering the consequences of your bad decisions. Now that you are aware, turn back to me and I will forgive you.  Don’t be discouraged.  Study My Word, and share it with others; persevere, and I will bring your reward with me when I come back.”

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” ~ Rev 3:19 (NIV)

 Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.” ~ Rev. 22:12 (NIV)

Maranatha!  Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

The next posting Encouragement – “See pg 397” will be coming out soon, Lord willing.  Don’t miss it by following ImportantStuff.live!

God bless.

Here is a link to a brief commentary from LifeHope &Truth that highlights the encouragements that Jesus gave to each of the Seven Churches of Revelation .

 

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Indecision – The Spirit of Fear

Remaining in a state of indecision is like casting one’s mind into the midst of a tornado. Thoughts like a whirlwind can churn so chaotically that a person’s moods and behaviors may be adversely effected.  Indecision is not fear that you will be late for an appointment, but is more encompassing.  Indecision is the spirit of fear.  It can affect individuals and even nations:

“A double minded man is unstable in all of his ways.” ~ James 1:8 (KJV)

Indecision is one symptom of chronic stress that is brought about by fear and may manifest as panic; not knowing which way to turn.  One may become stuck; virtually paralyzed by fear; thinking that no course of direction seems safe; or conversely, may charge off in random directions without purpose.  Fear, if unchecked, can destabilize anyone.  Indecisiveness, in all of its debilitating forms, is clearly shown in God’s Word as being ruled by the overshadowing spirit of fear, which can lead to broken relationships, loss of employment, depression, poor physical health; and ultimately, self destruction.  If you have been struggling with fear or indecision,

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You may be on shaky ground emotionally, but you are certainly not the Lone Ranger.  It can happen to anyone – believers or unbelievers alike.  If you can’t seem to make up your mind in today’s complicated world, take heart!  God understands:

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” ~ I Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

So God didn’t create our spirit of fear, but He HAS given us the power to overcome it and to restore us with a sound mind through faith and the study of His Word.  Our magnificent Father is mighty to save and powerful to heal.

But wait!  There may be another contributing factor in the valley of decision ruled by the spirit of fear.  Have you ever felt like screaming, “I am at a loss!”?  Sometimes indecision can be caused by information overload:

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“But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” ~ Daniel 12:4 (KJV)

 

Most people in the world are immersed in data; to the point of many being in a constant state of information overload via computers, the internet, television, media, and access to mega data storage/retrieval systems. Is there a connection between time of the endrunning to and fro, increased knowledge and the problem of both individual and national indecision?  Increased knowledge, or data, may be adequately managed by computer systems, governing systems, or economic systems, but what effect, if any, does it have on human mental health?

There are many Bible scholars, ministers, and believers who are convinced that we are living at the time of the end; or in the end times; just prior to the time when Jesus will return to this earth, destroy man’s failed governments, then set up and rule His own perfect kingdom of 1,000 years, otherwise known as The Millennium, or Millennial Age (Revelation, chapter 20).

The end times is not defined as a specific number of years in the Bible, but only a time period that is near the end of this world as we know it.  During the end times, as told in the Old Testament to the Prophet Daniel by an angelic messenger from God, many humans will be running to and fro.  Some believe this scripture in the Book of Daniel refers simply to a time when world-wide travel is very advanced compared to ancient times of this prophecy.  It could also mean an age of distress; when people are in a condition of panic mode; wildly running scared from some terror (or terrorism); or frenzied racing around without direction (spirit of fear).  Today even the movie industry has capitalized upon end times prophesy by promoting an apocalyptic view of disaster and foreboding – possibly contributing to further infection of audiences with a dreadful spirit of fear.

The end times is also described as a period of time when knowledge is increased.  Increased knowledge has ushered in an age of space exploration, scientific and medical advancements;  but no peace.  In our present technologically advanced age, most people would agree that knowledge has increased rapidly since World War I (WWI), but no community on the planet is out of reach from the threat of total annihilation from weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

 

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Since WWII there have been wars fought in the name of WMDs prevention; and treaties made between nations regulating WMDs.   Yet this global effort has not brought peace or stability to the earth so far.  This is evidence to many that we already live in the perilous times of the last days.  Generations of populations living under this evil threat could be so fearful of impending doom that it is a pervading underlying cause of national fear – which sparks nations to produce more such weaponry in the name of defense, and the cycle continues.  Because of a spirit of fear of global annihilation, entire doomsday-thinking populations may be easily manipulated and controlled by power-seeking or terrorist governments.  Yes, as if WMDs are not scary enough, earth’s global community is now operating under a spirit of fear due to terrorist attacks.

By understanding there is a connection between time of the endrunning to and fro and increased knowledge in God’s Word, we may go deeper and offer that the angelic messenger who visited the prophet, Daniel, described an age identical to our century.  Increased knowledge and data overload or the activity of manipulating data (think of cell phone texting alone) may also be linked to the problem of both individual and national indecision.  There is no question that knowledge has increased (past tense).  People already do run to and fro (again, past tense).  There also seems to be an epidemic of double mindedness world wide, as evidenced by reports of political and social upheaval in the news daily.  Whether or not we are living in the time of the end, scripture seems to support in favor.

If you are gripped by a spirit of fear for whatever reason and still don’t understand why, just take a deep breath.  Turn off the news, and spend time with YHVH, our Elohim.  Ask God to clear your head, bring peace into your heart, and settle your spirit.  Ask Him for guidance over your life and wisdom in decision making.

The Apostle Paul had this to say about the end times in his second letter to Timothy:

“But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” ~ II Timothy 2:16 (KJV)

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves …” ~ II Timothy 3:1-2a (KJV)

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. ~ II Timothy 3:5 (KJV)

“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” ~ II Timothy 3:7 (KJV)

Tips to consider (in laymen’s terms):

  • Avoid egotistical, profane blabbermouths (II Timothy 2:16), for associating with them will only escalate into more ungodliness.  Foul speech is indecent; it is a slippery slope that spirals ever downward into hopelessly confusing indecisiveness.

“But I did find this: God created people to be virtuous, but they have each turned to follow their own downward path.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:29 (NLT)

  • Study God’s Word:

For God is not the author of confusion.” ~ (I Cor. 14:33).

  • In the end days, self centeredness will abound.  People will appear to be saintly or Godly, but their associations prove their hypocracy.  Consider how that may be playing out in our modern age today.  God’s Word says not to hang with them and if we are in doubt about who these people are, the Apostle Paul identifies them in a list of the ungodly: lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God (II Timothy 3:2-5).  It reads exactly like the attributes of the Antichrist!  So then, is ungodliness similar to indecisiveness?  This is where we started – at the crossroads of decision.  Time to choose the path that is straight, not crooked; the path of wisdom.  Don’t walk – RUN from them!
  • In the end days, there may be an increase in knowledge along with an increase in education but neither advancement appears to lead people to Truth (II Timothy 3:7).  God’s Word is saying that He understands what leads to indecision, that these are scary, perilous times, but there is only one Hope; only one Truth.

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” ~ John 14:6 (KJV)

Pray for deliverance from a spirit of fear.  God is faithful, and will set you on the path of assertiveness and stability, which means peace of mind.  There is nothing like it. Promise.

“The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him.” ~ Lamentations 3:24 (KJV)

“And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” ~II Timothy 4:18 (KJV)

Peace to you, and God bless.

For anyone who is interested, there is a list of end time prophetic signs at this link 26 End Time Signs.

 

 

 

Encouragement – “see pg 49”

Page 49 of Dad’s New Testament Bible has a faint penciled box around verses 37-40 of Matthew 25.  It is as if Dad could not boldly circle these verses in ink; just humbly and gently scribe the page with a blunt pencil; as a servant awed by the sheer power and majesty of his Almighty King.  When I first read the noted verses 37-40, I was not seeing a message of encouragement.  In the words of Jesus Himself:

37Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ 40And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’“ ~ Matthew 25:37-40

Matthew scripture chapter 25, verses 31-46 is known in modern times as “The Parable of the Sheep and Goats”.  It is the last parable that Jesus spoke to His disciples privately at the location of the Mount of Olives just two days before his betrayal and arrest during Passover in Jerusalem.  Jesus is speaking of the judgment of the nations in this passage which will take place at His Second Coming.  I encourage you to read the entire passage if you have not already.  A link is provided at the end of this post.  The parable’s meaning is very controversial; even to the point that there is no agreement as to whether it is a parable or not!  I have avoided links to opposing views on this parable, but feel that we can surely ascertain that the verses speak of King Jesus separating the goat nations to His left for everlasting punishment, and the righteous sheep nations to His right hand for eternal life, based upon their treatment of “the least of these My brethren”.

But what does this mean?  Who are the least? Scripture supports, explains, or backs up scripture, so let’s look at a passage in Exodus:

21Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. 22Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. 23If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry, 24And My wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless. 25If thou lend money to any of My people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury. 26If thou at all take thy neighbour’s raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by that the sun goeth down: 27For that is his covering only, it is his raiment for his skin: wherein shall he sleep? And it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto Me, that I will hear, for I am gracious.” ~ Exodus 22:21-27 (KJV)

Consider: Here in Alaska it would be thought inhumane in extremely cold weather to accept the coat of another unless the circumstances were dire (survival related) or the recipient of the coat knew it was a spare coat of the giver.  Yes, and return it by nightfall!  But I can also witness that some Alaskans will go out of their way to cover a freezing homeless person with their own coats in sub-zero weather.  Whether believers or not, I cannot say, but the gesture of mercy for the poor and naked is not lost on this writer, nor with Jesus, I am confident.

Don’t forget “My brethren” are fellow believers, the Jews (Yeshua was definitely a Jew).  Show kindness to one another.  Help one another.  Pray for and lift up all men, as only God knows who is of the sheep nations or who is of the goat nations.  We are not to discriminate or judge anyone.

I hear all the time that there is no salvation in good works.  Baloney!  True, Jesus is our Messiah, and He is our Redeemer.  There is no other way to salvation but through belief in Him.  Yet His ministry on earth was a life of good works.  He fed the hungry.  He healed the sick.  Let His example be our guide, in order to be more like Him.

I think James, the Lord’s brother, clarifies the question of good works :

14What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? 15If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” ~ James 2:14-18 (KJV)

So where is the message of encouragement on page 49 of Dad’s Bible?  For me, it is “THE PROMISE” of great reward that Jesus taught us: He knows His sheep, and is known by them. King Jesus is The Great Shepherd who carefully tends His flock (sheep nations) and keeps it safe from God’s wrath.  He refers to His sheep as being “righteous”.   But Jesus warned, in His own words, that there is a terrible and final consequence for the goat nations who are not charitable; who do not feed the poor, but rob the poor; who do not help orphans or widows, but abuse and sell them into slavery; who love themselves more than their neighbors; who judge the sins of others as being worse than their own.

The Gospel of the Kingdom of Christ is to love one another, as the King loved us.  As we walk that out, take encouragement from pg. 49 of Dad’s Bible.  Jesus rewards the faithful and obedient servants of His Word with everlasting life.  How much more encouragement do we need?

The cost:

There is nothing on pg. 49 of Dad’s Bible that will make us prosperous by the world’s standards.  The Gospel is totally free as our gift from our Father in heaven.  He sacrificed His Son for us.  There is no way to take up our cross and follow Him except to humbly serve others less fortunate and without expecting personal gain or earthly honor.  Our true reward is His spiritual blessing of life everlasting with Him; which is treasure immeasurable.

20Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the Sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21Make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. ~ Hebrews 13:20-21 (KJV)

God bless!

Note:  I apologize to the readers of these “encouragement posts” for lack of citing Bible translation versions of the scriptures that Dad circled or otherwise referenced in his New Testament.  The reason I cannot cite is because I am transcribing the featured scripture text verbatim from his Bible (other than taking liberty to capitalize His Holy Name out of reverence).  The first 12 numbered pages of his Bible, which would have included Matthew chapter 1-7 are entirely gone; including the title, publishing and copyright pages.  The Bible text begins simply on page 13 with verse 12b of Matthew chapter 8.  I could guess at the version, but will forbear.  Fortunately, there is nothing noted at the bottom of each page by Dad which references those missing pages, so we at least have Dad’s complete message.  Thank you for following the “encouragement posts” in spite of this issue.  YOU are giving ME great encouragement!

Thanks also, to those following importantstuff.live.  The next post Encouragement – “see pg 130” will be posted soon, Lord willing.

Here is a link to the entire scriptural passage on the Parable of the Sheep and Goats for those interested at biblegateway.com.

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Paid in Full

24He personally carried our sins in His body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right.  By His wounds you are healed.  25Once you were like sheep who wandered away.  But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.” ~ I Peter 2:24-25 (NLT)

Without the precious blood of Christ, the innocent Lamb of God, there is no hope of salvation.

“There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”~ Acts 4:12 (NLT)

Some reject the “blood” part of the gospel, but God paid a ransom with His own blood. According to His Word on the cross, “It is finished.”  Our sin debt is paid in full.  There is no other true gospel.

God Bless.

Encouragement – “see pg 317”

For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a man has, not according to what he has not. ~2 Corinthians 8:12.

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This scripture reminds me of the humble lifestyle of my childhood.  Dad was a good provider for our family, and God blessed us in all the things that count.  But there were definitely times when Dad felt that he just wasn’t “Living the American Dream”.  All that changed when God opened new doors in Dad’s life.  Because Dad was willingly obedient to God’s calling, our entire family has reaped the earthly and the spiritual reward for four generations.

I remember that Dad regretted not having a college education.  I could tell by his conversations with me growing up that he seriously wanted his children to get more education that he had.  Yet he was so gifted that he achieved far more in his brief life than I claim for my own life (having more formal education and outliving him by almost 20 years).  Dad used what God blessed him with by tithing, supporting gospel ministries, teaching Sunday School classes, helping build youth camps and church buildings with limited materials, actively serving as an ordained deacon in his local church, and by sharing God’s Word with ordinary folks he met in ordinary circumstances.  Dad made sure he was the spiritual leader of our family.  He declared Sunday as “Family Day” and took us to church; then afterward he took us on picnics all over the place.  He became a pilot and flew us to uninhabited places you wouldn’t believe just so we could enjoy hot dogs together on a deserted beach; then beach comb until sunset.  When he could no longer fly his plane due to health reasons he made sure it went into service in the mission fields of the far north Alaskan bush villages.  Dad really took care of the important stuff.  I am convinced that God can and does call each person without regard for attributes that men would esteem.  When I observe believers who share their faith in amazing ways through giving, music, preaching, teaching, charity, care giving, or a myriad of other ways, I am struck by God’s love for diversity in His chosen.

It must be a very sad thing to God when believers are unwilling to use what they DO have in service for the Gospel.  When we make excuses for not sharing Jesus, it is such a paradox!  If we truly believed that we have no skills, talents, or resources with which to share the Bible message, what about our mouths?  Wouldn’t our verbal skill be better used for glorifying Jesus through witness than for making those excuses?

Sometimes God has opened doors of opportunity to me but when I demonstrated willingness He shut the doors.  Was He just testing my willingness?  Was my faith alone acceptable, even though I was poorly equipped to handle the assignment?  God is so kind and merciful.  He never expects us to do more than we are able at the time.  One particular example of God’s tenderness was revealed to me personally about ten years ago.  A new job opportunity that I felt was God’s will for me came out of nowhere and I accepted the job.  I was so excited and hurriedly packed my bags, as the job location was in a remote area of Alaska.  Then suddenly God let me know that I should not go.  I was so confused until I realized that God had slammed that door shut out of love for me.  I had been depressed and needed more healing before leaving home and family.  He just wanted to know that I was willing.  My readiness was acceptable, but He would not expect from me what I did not possess.  Later, God blessed me with complete healing of depression and then opened new doors for service to Him.  Has your willingness been tested?  What do you lack that God is not great enough to provide or help you to overcome?

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” ~ Romans 8:28 KJV

Even though I had memorized this verse as a child, I seem to have missed one important word in the verse – theThem who are “the” called” is so much more personal than ”them who are called”.  I am so honored to have a new designation; to be a member of a select group; I am a part of “the called”, not just “called”.

Talk about encouragement!  I feel so dumb that I missed that for so long.  Thanks, Dad.

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There is more of Dad’s New Testament message ahead in Encouragement  – “see pg 343”.  If you don’t want to miss the next part of the message just follow along here at importantstuff.live.

Encouragement – “turn to pg 296”

The message I discovered that Dad carefully wrote in his little New Testament Bible is so simple and yet so precious.  It is precious to me, of course, because my own Dad wrote it; but he wrote it for himself, not me.  It is only God’s grace that inspired the Apostle Paul to write his encouraging letters to the church in Corinth, and only God’s divine hand that preserved His Word for centuries to encourage us today.  Dad was only His instrument; just like Paul.

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So Dad circled verse 17 of I Corinthians 9 on page 296 in his Bible: For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission.  The Apostle Paul explained this statement in detail clear to the end of chapter 9.  We all pretty much understand “of my own will”.  Paul was a free man.  He was a Roman citizen, which guaranteed him certain rights under Roman law to live his life the way he pleased.  He was slave to no man.  Americans enjoy similar freedom under our “Bill of Rights” today.  Paul chose to share his faith in Jesus.  He was not under force to witness – But what about reward?

He explained that all participants run a race, but only one wins the prize (verse 24).  If the race is run willingly, then the participant is much more likely to win.  Win what?  In this case, SOULS.  Yes, more saved souls are the reward!  It’s not for heavenly crowns, positions of honor, medals or status as an Apostle or church leader.  Paul’s message of “running the race” for Christ was written in order to encourage every witnessing believer by teaching 1the proper way to do it and 2the right reason for doing it.  I don’t know about you, but I am vastly more encouraged by success than by failure.  The Apostle Paul is basically saying:  Join up and run, but run smart; don’t just run because you learned about “The Great Commission” and feel compelled to serve Jesus.  Yes, it is a very big deal, because Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.” ~ Mark 16:15

That makes it the highest priority in this life for the believer.  Jesus wants us to know that the stakes are high.  I firmly believe that Dad was keenly aware of it.  Obviously, he was determined to stay the course not only to win the race, but like Paul, to bring more lost souls across the finish line with him.

But do we share our testimony as just a duty, or willingly?  Paul cautions, “if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission.”  In other words, our Master has commissioned us to perform this duty regardless.  Our efforts have less chance of winning souls for Jesus if people see that our words lack enthusiasm.  There is no fire in the belly; no burden for the lost.  Instead of achieving reward for more souls saved, we are diminished by the less.  “I am entrusted” means each believer is accountable either way.

Are our hearts truly burdened for the lost?  Even though we have been freed by the blood of Jesus, have we made ourselves a servant to all?  Don’t be timid in sharing God’s Word.  We can’t all be missionaries serving in foreign lands.  God knows that we can sow seeds and reap a harvest for His kingdom right in our own communities.  God will provide opportunity because Jesus gave His life for this message to be shared with all who will listen – or not listen.  Seize opportunities that the Holy Spirit creates for witnessing.  Remember that believers are only responsible to act on opportunities; and then let the Holy Spirit do His work.  II Timothy 1:7 is the most encouraging verse to the timid believer: For God has not given us a spirit of fear (timidity in some Bible translations), but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 

 

Consider the “Parable of the Pounds” in Luke 19:12-27:  A certain nobleman traveled to a far country to receive a kingdom and then return (Jesus).  He left ten pounds of money (Gospel) with ten servants.  When he returned he found that nine had increased the master’s money (Shared the Gospel), but one servant had not.  He had hidden the master’s pound in a napkin (gotten saved and then kept the Good News all to himself), saying, 21“For I FEARED thee, because thou art an austere man” (excuses and blaming the Master!).  The master judged the servant by taking the pound (Gospel) he had entrusted to him and giving it to the servant who had increased his master’s one pound by ten pounds (Evangelist) – Sort of like taking away what few souls may have surrendered to Jesus as a result of one timid believer, and crediting those souls to Billy Graham’s service record.  AYIYIYI!  When the other nine servants questioned the master’s judgement, 26“He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away.

I think I have written somewhere previously that God sets aside those who do not serve Him.  After repeated attempts by the Holy Spirit to energize a person to live for the Gospel, that person may resist; won’t let his light shine; has no salt.  This grieves the Holy Spirit until God just sets that person aside to live out the rest of his or her life in worldly pursuits; thereby suffering spiritual loss.

I don’t want to be set aside.  Thank you, Dad, for circling verse 17 on page 296 of your Bible.  Your witness is still bearing fruit!

“If we have Christ, we have nothing to fear when sharing the Gospel. We may not be trained speakers, gifted salesmen, or educated preachers or teachers. But if we’re empowered with the Spirit’s love, we’ll be effective. We can’t win others through our personalities, persuasive techniques, or promotional campaigns, though the Lord can use some of those things. The real secret is the Spirit-empowered love and power, and a sound mind that presents a hope-filled Gospel to a downtrodden world.” ~ Dr. David Jeremiah

Lord, may my witness be as powerful as the blasting shofar; and full of Your love, not “words as a tinkling cymbal”.  Give me a fearless and sound mind; that I may recognize and respond to the opportunities for witnessing that You set before me today; and know that I believe in Your call.  I am your willing servant.  Thank you, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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There is more coming soon of Dad’s New Testament message on Encouragement  – “see pg 317”.  Don’t miss the next part of the message by following importantstuff.live.

Encouragement – “see pg 194”

God sends encouragement to the believer in amazing ways through His Word.  Personal witness can be challenging as we share our testimony of faith to others.  Sometimes we don’t see the fruit of what we have sown; but never doubt God’s authority over growing His Gospel.  Our personal abilities, opportunities and circumstances to witness for Him pale by comparison to the power of His Word.  Do you doubt the power of His Word in your life?  God’s Word reaches across both distance and time to bring fruit to the labors of soul winning believers, as I am about to show you.

My father was a Christian who shared his testimony with many people during his lifetime.  Although he passed on to be with Jesus almost 40 years ago, God recently used my dad’s strong faith to encourage me quite unexpectedly when I found my dad’s pocket New Testament lying on a book shelf undisturbed.  I placed it there years ago.  The condition of this little Bible is beyond use, as its binding is a rubber band holding the pages together.  I thought its only use was a keepsake – a cherished memory of Dad.

For some reason I felt led to open the Book, just out of curiosity perhaps, to see if Dad underlined a scripture or left something of him inside.  What I found was a treasured message from my Heavenly Father pointed out by Dad that brought tearful joy to my discouraged heart.  Isn’t it amazing how God zaps us once in a while with His love?

Before I reveal the message, I want to share that Dad witnessed about the Gospel to just about anyone who would listen.  He didn’t drink alcohol, but would visit the local taverns in town to share Jesus with the bar patrons.  He worked in the oil fields of California and Alaska and shared his faith with co-workers; a rough crowd by some standards.  He frequently was met with ridicule for being a Christian, but he was not dissuaded.  He encouraged some men he knew to put God first in their lives if they wanted to have successful marriages.  There were many instances of divorce happening at the time.  Alaska was tough on marriages in the 1960’s.  The lack of conveniences drove many wives to leave their husbands for civilization back in the “lower 48”.  One man in particular scoffed at Dad’s notion that God’s love could mend a marriage.  Anyway, that is just a brief glimpse of my father’s personal testimony throughout his life.  He stood strong for Jesus; was not dissuaded; but now I see evidence in his little Bible that he may have been discouraged at times.  So what did he do about it?

Dad searched out God’s Word for encouragement and outlined God’s answer in the Bible so he could refer back anytime he was feeling rejected, tired, or defeated by the enemy.  I also believe that it was God’s plan for Dad to leave the following message so that I would find it so many years later; so that I would be encouraged; and so maybe whoever reads this will be encouraged to strive to be an overcomer – as Jesus plainly instructed believers eight times in the Book of Revelation.Hollis1

When I opened Dad’s little New Testament, on the very front inside cover was his name and the instruction written in his own handwriting: “see pg 194”.
My first reaction was, “REALLY?”  Some loose pages flew out of the Book in my haste to get to page 194.  Verse 26 of The Great Shepherd’s intercessory prayer for His flock as recorded in John 17 was circled: “I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

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Jesus was the First Witness!  He broadcast the Father’s Name, and wasn’t ashamed!  He spoke to thousands about the Father’s love for mankind! – The very thing He commanded His followers do.  So He never asked us to do something that He never did first.

I encourage you to read the entire chapter to learn how great is Jesus’ love for us.  At a time when He was about to be betrayed by one of His own (Judas) and delivered up for torture and crucifixion – He, who was without sin – prayed for us first, and then gave Himself up willingly to the cross.  He sacrificed Himself for us not because He was guilty of any crime, but out of love for sinners and nothing else!

If I knew that I had but a few hours to live, what would be my priority?  Some are told by doctors to “put your things in order” if diagnosed with a terminal illness; as if “your things” are the priority.  Some people rush to do the things on their “bucket list”- those dreams or goals in life that are unfulfilled.

What did Jesus do?

He prayed.  He gave the Father glory – the number one priority and what we should do first when we pray. Then He prayed acceptance that His life on earth was done.  Then He prayed for us: I am praying for them: I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine. ~John 17:9.  Jesus became first because He always put Himself last.  This principle is taught throughout God’s Word, and if it was the priority for Jesus, it should be embraced as priority by His followers as well.

I don’t know what my priority will be when my time is at hand to experience passing out of this life, even though I know what it should be.  I can tell you that Dad knew beforehand that he would be joining Jesus in heaven soon.  Yet he kept his priorities squared away.  He gave the Father glory in all things, even though his life was cut short and it may not have “seemed fair”.  He accepted that God’s purpose in his life was finished.  He had lived his bucket list, so that was done.  He prayed for others as church brethren prayed for him.  He continued to read God’s Word as long as he was able.  He continued to love others and shared his faith with not only his friends, but complete strangers that he met at the hospital, community – everywhere his journey took him until he passed out of this world and into the arms of his loving Savior. Matt28-19-20copy

Reading Dad’s Bible message is working a new thing in my life.  I am just beginning to appreciate more than ever what a wonderful gift God gave me.  What started out as curiosity over a family keepsake has set me on a journey into a deepening re-connection to my Heavenly Father.  I’m getting a glimpse of God’s love being greater than distance or time, and obedience to His will being the priority.

There is more to come (Lord willing) as I explore more of Dad’s New Testament message in “Turn to pg 296”.  Don’t miss the next part of the message by following importantstuff.live.