Prayers for the Sick

In James chapter five, we are given some instructions regarding prayer (Jas. 5:13-18). These verses seem pretty simple, but James, inspired by the Holy Spirit, throws a little twist on us. He begins by talking about people who are suffering in verse 13 and then the sick at the beginning of verse 14. It seems clear from the context that he is talking about the physically sick, but at the end of verse 15 he changes gears to say that the person’s sins will be forgiven. Was he talking about the spiritually sick the whole time, or is it simply a reminder that we should also be concerned with our sins?

Paul does something similar to this in his discourse on the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11. The method in which they had been partaking had been distorted. Paul said that it was for this reason many of them were weak and sick (1 Cor. 11:30). In this case it seems like he would be talking about spiritually sick, but the addition of being weak makes it seem that they were literally physically sick.

Jesus uses this type of comparison as well. In Matthew 9, when the Pharisees questioned his eating with tax collectors and sinners Jesus answered, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick (Matt. 9:12).” Interestingly in this same chapter Jesus forgave a lame man his sins before telling him to arise and walk (Matt. 9:2-6). Apparently a great effort had been made to have this man healed, but Jesus needed to do some teaching. These people needed to recognize that Jesus was working these miracles to prove who he was. Also, Jesus was no doubt concerned that people were coming from all over to be healed, but no one was asking for their sins to be forgiven.

Sometimes I find myself with a similar concern when it comes to our prayer list. Do not get me wrong, I am more than glad to pray for those who are sick, hurting, or bereaved. However, I would also love to see us praying for those who are spiritually sick, but for some reason we do not give the same concern to that sickness. If our family members are near death we are desperate for prayers, but we overlook the fact that many of us have good friends and family members who have no sign of Christ in their lives. Should we not be praying more earnestly for those who reject God, and are in danger of being found on the wrong side of eternal judgment?

The people in Jesus’ day were concerned with finding an earthly leader and an earthly cure. When reading our Bibles we can clearly see that this was a mistake. However, I am afraid that things have not changed very much. I am not sure what the cause is, but we continue to do the same. Perhaps it is related to the fact that Satan has convinced countless people, beginning in the garden, that God is too good to punish anyone. Satan tells us that the multitude is getting into heaven, while Jesus says that it is the few (Matt. 7:14).

Friends, our eternal souls are serious business. Surely we all have close friends and family that are sick and in need of our prayers. Let’s change our focus this year from the earthly to the spiritual.

 

Fruitful Seasons

2013-05-05 20.04.10Even with the little winters (dogwood, blackberry, etc.) that we have, Spring in East Tennessee is a beautiful season. The forests and fields are full of new life. The trees are turning green and blooming. The grass is green on the baseball diamond and golf courses. The fish are biting and the turkeys are gobbling. When we have a beautiful Saturday it may be a difficult decision whether to hunt, fish, dust off the golf clubs, or take in a baseball game. That is a problem that I am thankful to have.

When I look around at the beauty of spring I am reminded that the hand of God is at work. We all remember that God made a covenant with Noah and sealed it with the rainbow (Gen. 9:12-17). He also promised, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease (Gen. 8:22).” In the face of “global warming” and “climate shift,” God keeps his promises.

God’s hand has always been at work, and he has always intended for it to be seen. Dealing with idolatry in Lystra, Paul pointed out that God did not leave himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness (Acts 14:17). Paul made similar comments in his letter to the Romans, stating that God’s invisible attributes had been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood by the things that are made (Rom. 1:20).

Paul’s comments may be a clue to help us understand why some people believe in evolution. If we think of God as an architect it should not be surprising that his creations have similarities. Some architects use such recognizable patterns that experts could tell you the name of the designer by just looking at the structure. Why should we think that this phenomenon is not possible in creation? Clearly it is possible.

All the beauty that we see is from the ultimate architect, from the newborn animals to the colorful blooms. We just need to be certain that we do not find ourselves in the category of those that Paul spoke of in Romans. They had no excuse. Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened (Rom. 1:21). When you go out this week look around at the beauty and give thanks to the one that has given it to us. Give God the glory and honor that he deserves.

MILK AND BREAD RUSH

Sledding February 15When I was sixteen I started working at the Piggly Wiggly grocery in the town where I grew up. During the five years that I worked there we carried out groceries for anyone who got more than they could carry in their hands. The job was considered carry-out/stock-boy. That meant on top of carrying out everyone’s groceries we were also responsible for stocking shelves. That included putting out milk and bread. It was actually a pretty good job for a teenager, but the recent weather in East Tennessee has brought back some not so pleasant memories.

As most everyone knows by now, anytime the weatherman calls for snow or ice there will be a huge rush to the store to stock up on milk and bread (I was pretty certain my boss was in a conspiracy with the local weather men). The recent weather system was no exception. A couple weeks ago the forecast was calling for as much as eight to ten inches of snow along with three quarters an inch of ice. I saw reports on local news stations that many stores were sold completely out of milk and bread. Hardware stores were also sold out of generators and kerosene heaters, and some stations had lines of people waiting to get kerosene.

No doubt the recent weather conditions have been dangerous, and it is always good to be prepared. After all ice could knock out the power in rural areas for several days. The combination of snow and ice make roads difficult to navigate. I even saw reports on the news of the rare case of people losing their lives to the extreme weather conditions. Some were traffic fatalities, and at least one was hypothermia due to loss of power at a man’s residence. These conditions make for scary times. There is no wonder people rush to make preparations.

The only surprising thing to me is that there is a forecast that has been given that is much scarier, yet few are rushing to make preparations. In Second Thessalonians chapter one Paul said that Jesus would be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in a flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 1:6-10). Some may think that God is slack concerning this promise, but Peter warned that people would think such (2 Pet. 3:9). Peter also describes this day as a day of fire (2 Pet. 3:7). In his description, Peter said that the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat (2 Pet. 3:12). Did you get that, not snow and ice, but a flaming fire? Which is scarier?

The difference with this forecast is that only the Father in heaven knows the day and time (Matt. 24:36). This is not really a forecast but a guarantee. It will be a day that comes on us as a thief in the night (2 Pet. 3:10). Therefore, the only way to be prepared for this day is to always be ready. Can you imagine what it would look like on Sunday morning if people prepared for this event the way they do for bad weather? There would not be an empty seat on any pew in any church building. Yet, most buildings do well to be half full. It makes you wonder if people think that God is lying about his promise. What do you think? Do you truly believe in God? Do you know God? Have you obeyed the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:8)? Are you ready for today to be your last? Are you ready for this to be your last hour, your last minute on earth? Are you ready?

Uncle Freddie

Me and Fred on tractorMy family was surprised last week by the passing of my uncle Freddie Tooley. I often wonder why we are shocked when someone passes. We know it will happen one day (Heb. 9:27). Perhaps in this case it was because Freddie was 64, and had not had any major health issues that we knew about. Sixty-four seemed old to me when I was a kid, but I think most of us hope and plan to live into our seventies or eighties. However, there are just not any guarantees.

Freddie was a member of the church, and he passed doing what he liked. He was on his tractor riding across his farm when he was hit by a heart attack. These things should make it easier for us to let go of our loved ones, but we selfishly wish to have more time with them. Even though we know that they have passed on to a better place; we wish for them to be back. We want to have a little more time to say or do things that were left undone.

The closest we are going to get in this life is the time that we have to visit at the funeral home. The comfort comes from seeing relatives and friends that we have not seen in years. It is a distraction from the occasion to talk with these people and to share stories of fond memories and fun times. In Freddie’s case I was glad to hear how faithful he had been to the church. I knew that he had obeyed the gospel a few years ago, but that is about all I knew.

In many cases people profess to be obedient to Christ, but instead of their whole heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:37) they give mediocrity. I found relief in hearing that was not what Freddie had been giving. I heard stories of how many times he was the first one at the church building to open the doors. He had a special seat that he sat in to ring a bell to let people know when Bible class was finished. He took watermelons and other produce that he raised to people on a regular basis. This is the example that we need to be. In fact, the night that he passed, his wife knew something was wrong when she arrived home to find that he was not there getting ready for or already gone to church. These are stories of comfort, but it is still difficult.

I wish that we could have the attitude of David in 2 Samuel 12. David’s son, born in adultery and murder, was struck with illness by the Lord because of the sins that had been involved. While the child was sick David was mournful. He fasted and lay on the ground. The elders could not even get him up. When the child died the men were afraid to tell David. However, David figured out from their actions that the child had died. He did not react as they expected. He got up, cleaned himself, changed his clothes, and went to eat. At this point they really thought David had lost it. When questioned, David explained that the child was dead, and that he could not bring him back. David said, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me (2 Sam. 12:15-23).” Again, I wish that we could have this attitude, but it is difficult.

Perhaps the most difficult part is at the graveside. We know that the body of our loved one is going to be buried, and we will not see them again. We forget that David informed us that we can go to them. Yet that body is what we associate with physical pleasures we recall of the person. However, Paul has told us that we cannot go to heaven in the body we have on earth (1 Cor. 15:50-58). When we die in Christ we will join him in the air one day; we should comfort each other with these words (1 Thess. 4:13-18). We can go to them, but they cannot return to us (Luke 16:19-31).

Amazing!

Jeter CardI like to see and be a part of things that are different or extraordinary. Do you? I would say that most people would answer, “Yes.” It is easy for us to get caught up in things that seem amazing. We watch sports on television hoping to see some amazing feat performed by our favorite players or teams. Every now and then something happens that is so amazing that it seems to be a miracle. For instance last night, in his last game at Yankee Stadium, Derek Jeter got a base hit in the bottom of the ninth to win the game for the Yanks. Amazing!

In life we hope to mimic amazing feats that we have witnessed. We play baseball hoping to hit that long ball in the bottom of the ninth. In basketball we dream of sinking that game winning three-pointer at the buzzer. Can you imagine the stir of our emotions if we had been around to see true visible miracles performed by Jesus and the apostles? I imagine that we would have desired to have those abilities as well.

In Acts 8 we have just such an account left behind in the Scriptures. A man named Simon who had been some type of sorcerer is the central character. Simon was newly converted by the preaching of Phillip (Acts 8:12-13). However, Simon was overcome by the desire to go back to his old ways when he witnessed the power of miracles performed by the apostles. He even tried to pay them for this ability (Acts 8:18-19).

We should be careful of jumping to judgment in this case. We may not have acted any better than Simon. In fact even the apostles were warned not to get too caught up in miraculous gifts they were given. They were told not to rejoice in the miracles, but rather because their names were written in heaven (Luke 10:19-20).

This is some advice to which we should give some attention. We go to all kinds of trouble to be a part of something great in the realm of sports and business, but what about the spiritual? We have the opportunity to be a part of the most amazing thing that will ever happen. We can have our name registered in heaven (Heb. 12:23). We can be joined there with the perfect and powerful creator of the universe (1 Thess. 4:16-17). Why do we not work harder to be a part of this miraculous event? I want to go to heaven, don’t you?

 

Live Like You Were Dying!

bucking bullA few years back country music singer Tim McGraw released a song titled “Live like You Were Dying.” The character in the song received news that he had cancer. After coming to terms with his illness, he lists some things that he did. He said that he finally read the Good Book, and he took a good hard look at what he would do if he could do it all again. He went sky diving, Rocky Mountain climbing, and he went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Foo Man Chu. He continues to list some other things he did, most of which were not things I would expect a man to do following the reading of the Bible. Later in the song he said, “Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying.”

Perhaps, the man would be surprised to hear that everyone has that chance. I am telling you right now we are all dying. The Hebrew writer said that it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment (Heb. 9:27). Therefore, we all have the opportunity to live like we are dying. However, I would suggest a different bucket list for the man who realizes that he is dying. Consider the following:

  • Reading the Good Book is a good place to start.
  • After reading His word a good response would be to love God with all your heart (Matt. 22:37).
  • You can show your love for God by full obedience to his word (John 14:15, 23).
  • It is also a good idea to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:39).
  • As a matter of fact go ahead and love your enemy as well (Matt. 5:43-44).
  • You can show your love for these people by sharing the gospel (Rom. 1:14-16).
  • While you are at it you might want to show some charity to your neighbor as well (Matt. 25:31-46).

This is a broad list but if you look at the verses and heed the warnings you will find yourself in a much better standing at the judgment day. The Bible tells us that we are all dying, but we could have figured that out from watching the world around us. We have and will watch those around us pass from this life, and one day our name will be listed somewhere in an obituary. I pray that our obituary can read as thus, “He/She put aside his/her selfish desire in this life and gave himself/herself to the love of God and fellow man.” Are you prepared for death? Live like you are dying!

What Is Your Greatest Fear?

EbolaThe news media loves to find a story that will strike fear into people’s hearts. Those types of stories are usually plastered all over social media. These stories get our attention. We cannot stay away from them. In some cases fraudulent websites will even post doctored pictures of something gruesome in hopes of getting people to click through to their website.

Lately, the story has been the Ebola Virus. Ebola is a deadly virus with no known cure. It also has been known to have some pretty gruesome symptoms such as bleeding from the eyes in some cases. Even though the virus is not easily spread, people are still terrified by the mention of it. People are so afraid that in one case some people would have denied treatment to infected Americans.

It is interesting that we are so afraid of things that can do us harm in this life, which is temporary, but many times we are indifferent to things that can do us harm in the next life, which is eternal. If we found out we had Ebola or maybe Cancer we would jump into action immediately, but we often procrastinate in regards to sin.

Yes, Ebola is scary, but so is an eternal lake of fire (Rev. 20:15) with weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 8:12). In this place of outer darkness there will be eternal separation from God (2 Thess. 1:9). That means that once we are sentenced there will be no cure. These are the symptoms of the deadliest plague, sin.

Why do we not fear sin? Perhaps we think our short life here on earth is more important than our eternal life? It is time that we start treating sin like the killer that it is. We need to treat sin like a plague. Instead of flirting with it, we need to run away from it. We need to fear it and hate it. Shouldn’t our greatest fear be separation from God?

Do You Have a Timothy?

2timothy1_2The letters that Paul wrote to Timothy are some of my favorite passages in the Good Book. Perhaps it is because of the personal nature we see in these letters, or perhaps it is because like Timothy I have had people who have helped and encouraged me. It is clear when we read these letters that Paul had a deep care and concern for Timothy. He refers to him as a true son in the faith and a beloved son (1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2). Paul wanted his son to be successful as a Christian and as a preacher.

I have been in a similar situation. When I started preaching I had men such as Steve Higginbotham who encouraged me to be better and do more. They were able to see greater things for me than I could see for myself. Steve encouraged me to move to Karns and attend the East Tennessee School of Preaching. Deep inside I liked the idea, but at first I couldn’t imagine Carla and I quitting our jobs and moving to Tennessee. Steve just kept planting that seed in my mind until the time was right.

When we finally made the decision there was a lot involved. Steve and Kim were great encouragers, opening their home to us while we visited the school, but they were not the only ones. There were several preachers who spoke to their elders on our behalf as we sought to raise money to attend school. Other men such as Westley Hazel and Blaine Kelly made calls to congregations that had helped them in the past. There were also individuals who pledged their personal support to our endeavors. We were amazed and impressed with how many people were willing to help. We were glad that the church was not as weak as some would claim. There are still a lot of good people and strong congregations.

Aside from the regular financial support that we received, there were countless others who called us and sent us letters and emails offering words of encouragement. It was not easy being away from family, and at times we were so busy that it was almost overwhelming. However, it seemed that something always happened to lift us up. One year around Christmas our refrigerator went out. We not only lost the normal things, but all of the extra things that we had purchased for visitors that we were expecting during the holidays. The same day that this happened I went to the mailbox and found a card from a good friend and elder of the Lord’s Church. Inside that card was a much unexpected gift. This was very uplifting, not just because we needed it at the time, but it reminded us that we were not alone and that there were good people who had our back.

That is why I am presenting this challenge. If you don’t have a Timothy, you need to find one. We need to encourage our young men to preach the word. There are over 7 billion people living on this planet. If we intend to send the gospel to all those people it is going to take some manpower. Go find yourself a Timothy!

The Gospel on Autopilot

AutopilotIn the business world people have figured out that one huge key to success is to have their operation on autopilot. Different authors have written about this idea, describing how your business should be making money for you when you are not thinking about it. Men who are highly successful at business want their operation to be making money for them even when they are asleep. This is a principal that we need to make use of in regards to the Lord’s church (some already do). We certainly do not want to face the judgment having allowed the sons of the world to have made better use of their resources (Luke 16:1-13).

I do not want you to think that the reason for doing this is so that we can retire from doing God’s work. The reason for doing this is so that we are reaching people with the gospel even when we are asleep. I can’t give you all the ideas, but I can plant the seed. We need to think of ideas that will spread and give access to the gospel message 24/7/365. This needs to be done from a local level to worldwide.

How can we do this? As I said before, I don’t have room to list every single idea (nor do I have the market cornered on ideas), however I can give you a few to get you started. First, we need to write or at least make available literature. Mailing House to House in your community might be one place to start. People will have opportunity to read this material at any time of the day. The local newspaper might be another place you could publish articles. Second, we need to make use of radio and television. If your congregation can produce their own program that is great, but if not there are others that we can support. As far as TV goes, GBN is available in many areas, and In Search of the Lord’s Way is on almost every provider. There are also radio programs that can be supported such as The International Gospel Hour. They might even be willing to air their program on your local station. We should also be sure that we let people know about these programs. Third, make use of the internet. Websites are cheap and easy to set up. It is likely that someone in the congregation can do it. If not, there are millions of other resources out there that other people provide. At the very least we can let people know about these.

These are just a few ideas. I am sure there is an endless list of others. The point is we need to make the best use of every possible resource. There is nothing to stop us from spreading the gospel 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year.

You Can be Wiser than Solomon!

wisdom of solomon

We have all heard of the wisdom of Solomon, such as the method used to determine the parent of a child (1 Kings 3:16-27). Solomon had received this wisdom when the Lord appeared to him in a dream. The Lord told Solomon to ask what should be given to him. Solomon told the Lord that he was like a little child. He said that he did not even know how to go out or come in (1 Kings 3:5-9). It is interesting that the wisdom that Solomon asked for was related to judging between good and evil (1 Kings 3:9). God was pleased with Solomon’s request and gave him wisdom so that there were none like him either before or after (1 Kings 3:12).

Surprisingly, even with all his wisdom Solomon still made foolish decisions. Perhaps it is partly because he had started down that road before God appeared to him in the dream. In 1 Kings 3:1 we read that Solomon made a treaty with Pharaoh King of Egypt and married his daughter. In 3:3 we read that he sacrificed and burned incense in the high places. However, Solomon continued to do these things long after he was given wisdom. In 1 Kings 11:1-8 we read of Solomon’s many wives and how they turned his heart after other gods. Solomon had all that wisdom, but still made poor choices.

Is it possible for us to be wiser than Solomon? Jesus said that the wise man is the one that hears his sayings and does them (Matt. 7:24). Therefore, we have the opportunity to choose more wisely than Solomon. We have the mystery of the gospel made known to us in the Scriptures (Rom. 16:25-27). All we have to do is let God’s word guide our lives (Psalm 119:105).