Yesterday we stopped in the middle of a narrative. Someone proposed selecting you; you accepted, the church confirmed you, and now the chairman is asking what you think. Consider what everyone on the finance committee knows (look back if you will). The “son of the benefactress” does not appear to be carrying any kind of document –legal or otherwise – which substantiates his claim. He has not offered any proof of his identity, nor is he accompanied by a lawyer. He merely makes a statement about his “mother’s wishes”. He is a stranger – not known by any committee member. Even if all he states is truthful, he is technically speaking hearsay – not admissible in any legal proceeding. The check was written to the church with no accompanying letter, according to the church clerk. All eyes are on you – waiting. You’re a member of a committee, but to whom will you voluntarily unite? What unintentional involuntary unities will result?
In Numbers 13-14, ten spies were sent by Moses to spy out Canaan. After 40 days they returned, and reported to Moses and Aaron (13:27-29): “We went into the land which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even
saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.” Caleb, however, had a different report (13:30): Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” (13:31-33): But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack these people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like
grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” This discouraged the people, who made predictions about what would happen to them. (14:6-10): Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them. The results? (14:29): Because of their contempt for the LORD, any Israelite over twenty years old would die in the desert. Joshua and Caleb? (14:30): They would enter the land. The other spies? (14:37): They died of a plague. The children? (14:33): For the parents’ unfaithfulness they would serve
as shepherds in the desert one year for each day of the forty the spies examined the land, and then (14:31): The LORD would “bring them in to enjoy the land” which the parents rejected.
So – Unities you join cause other significant, unintentional, involuntary unities; some beneficial, some – not so much. In the first paragraph I tried to make it clear that the finance committee was under no legal obligation to give away the money. They might decide to invest the money in a “missionary account”, then use only the interest to fund local projects. If there were future legal complications, the original gift could be produced, and the committee could say they were faithful custodians, waiting for the Lord’s leading. Should that be your suggestion? It might unify the committee. You could be congratulated and appreciated for finding a compromise. But have you read Matthew 25:24-30? It’s part of a parable.
Today: Pray for Christians and SDB brethren in North America: The United
States, Canada and all new fields in that region.
I almost hear you whispering, “What’s the difference between involuntary and voluntary unities?” Good question! Let’s assume you’re married; your spouse and you are a voluntary unit, which means there must have been a moment when you both agreed to marry each other (proposal and acceptance), but there are always involuntary unintentional unities. You become involuntarily united with both sets of relatives, friends, employment, medical conditions, hobbies, skills or inabilities, etc.
Or, suppose you wish to join a Seventh Day Baptist Church. You learn that each church is independent, but there are associations, conferences, societies and something called a Center. You make an appointment to have an interview, and discover that you must take a membership course of study, and that upon completion of the course you must stand before the church and state your Christian experience, and the church members’ votes decide whether or not you become united with them. Can you see a parallel with the paragraph above?
(Interview, training, proposal, confirmation/denial)
It is the same procedure whether you are looking for a job, singing in a chorus, applying to a college, building a house or driving a truck. There must be two parties: a party who proposes to do or be something, and a party that evaluates, denies or grants it.
Imagine that after ten years of church membership you are asked if you are willing to sit as a member of the finance committee. You are nominated, and the church approves. At your first meeting the finance committee is excited because a large gift has been received. As you listen, you discover that the committee cannot agree. A member proposes that half the money be used to replace the stained and spotted carpet in the sanctuary. Another member objects, because her grandparents donated the present carpet, but feels that all the money could be spent to purchase a new organ. The youngest member suggests the unexpected funds be used to improve the camp facilities. An older recently widowed lady thinks that all the money should be put in a managed trust fund, and only the interest used for building and ground maintenance.
A tentative knock, and the door opens, revealing a stranger who introduces himself as the son of the benefactress. He asks for permission to speak. “Mom always attended this church,” he says, “She wanted all the money to go to missions, since you have so much, but she wanted you to decide where it should go.”
Stunned silence, then the chairman turns to you, “What do you think?” he says. It is normal and proper for each SDB church to be concerned about the preservation and safety of its buildings and property. In church covenants there is a statement about the responsibility of members to help with expenses. The fictional
situation I presented represents a finance committee concerned only with their church. No opinion was expressed that some money be given to denominational or missions projects until the meeting was interrupted. Now it seems clear that none of the money was intended for local projects - or
is it really that clear? What would you say?
Today: Pray for Christians and SDB brethren in Asia: The Philippines, India (Kerala and Andhra Pradesh) and all other new Asian fields like Indonesia.
Most nations decree that a child born within their borders automatically becomes a citizen and/or subject of the nation’s government. Since the nation’s reputation attaches to its citizens and vice versa, it is in the interest of responsible governments to make provisions for the health, education and standard of living of its population.
Such nations enact laws compelling school attendance, administering vaccinations and immunizations, defining parental responsibilities, creating health programs which care for the poor, disabled and dying, managing retirement records and benefits, prosecuting, convicting and incarcerating criminals, making and maintaining roads, keeping records of deaths, marriages, divorces and births, settling disputes between citizens, maintaining reasonable security, safety and rescue personnel, and encouraging industry and technology to employ citizens,
collecting heavy taxes from both to support all of the above and more – much more.
There are other nations. Most of them would gladly expand the benefits and advantages described above for their own citizens, but because of predation or domination by remote and powerful nations, disease, disasters, wars, climate challenges, corruption, famine, drought, market changes, ancient treaties, low population literacy, limited natural resources, landlocked borders, disputed borders, aggressive neighboring nations, low fiscal resources, limited access to credit, competition for grants or economic assistance – some, or even all of the challenges mentioned prevent or delay economic progress, and result in discouragement, pessimism, and resentment.
It is unfortunate, but not surprising that some nations have policies with the goal of eliminating Christianity – not only within their borders, but in every place that they can use terror, beatings, beheadings and destruction to convert or kill Believers. Matthew 24:6-12, contains Jesus’ warning: “You will hear of war ---but see to it that
you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation ---. There will be famine and earthquakes in various places. --- All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated of all nations because of me. At that time many will turn from the faith and will betray and hate each other and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.”
So – when you understand Seventh Day Baptists have been beaten for their faith, and you understand our World Federation or Missionary Society might be able to help, what do you think you should do?
As I write this (September, 2014), Christians are beaten and killed because of their faith; tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, eruptions, famine and drought occur. Will your heart grow cold, or will you pray? Father, as I see others suffering, give me a discerning heart, that you will guide my giving of time and treasure. Let me not turn away from them, but give liberally and gladly, encouraging others to do the same. Amen
Today: Pray for Christians and SDB brethren in Australia, New Zealand and all other new fields in that region.
When we are born, we are usually brought to our parents to mature in a unit we call family. Initially, we have no choice. Later, of course, we can repudiate the relationship, legally change our names, and refuse any contact with family members, but the DNA record in every cell of each person ties them incontrovertibly and permanently to specific ancestors – their family. No matter if orphaned, abandoned, kidnapped, adopted or sold, everyone has a family, and no one can change a genetic heritage. It is determined before birth, and therefore involuntary.
In Genesis 35-50 there is the account of Joseph, son of Rachel and Jacob, later called Israel (35:10). Rachel was Jacob’s second wife; her sister Leah was the first. Jacob also had two children each by Bilhah (Rachel’s maidservant) and Zilpah (Leah’s maidservant). Jacob’s favorite of his 12 sons was Joseph, who (37:2) brought a “bad report” about his brothers to Jacob. This caused his brothers to hate him, and when Joseph told his dreams (37:6-10) their hatred increased.
When Jacob sent Joseph to find his brothers, they saw him coming and resolved to kill him. Reuben, the eldest of Leah’s children, urged that Joseph not be killed, but cast into a deep pit, intending to rescue him later. Judah, Leah’s third child, urged his brothers to sell him to a passing Midianite caravan, which they did. The Midianites sold him in Egypt to an officer of Pharaoh, Potiphar, who set him in charge of all he had, recognizing that the Lord was with him.
Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of impropriety, and Joseph was imprisoned. The jailer recognized his ability and set him in authority over the prison, where he interpreted the dreams of the incarcerated butler and baker. The butler was freed, but forgot Joseph’s plea that his unjust circumstances reach the ears of Pharaoh. When Pharaoh told of a troubling dream, the butler urged him to call upon Joseph for the interpretation. When Joseph told Pharaoh about an impending famine and urged him to set someone in authority to store the grain in years of plenty to offset the famine years, Pharaoh selected Joseph. And in the famine years when his brothers came to buy grain, he eventually told them (45:8), “So now it was not you who sent me here, but God---”. This statement reveals his profound insight. The hatred and injustices experienced had made him merciful, able to reconcile and unite his family. So – when you experience hatred, misunderstanding, false accusations and lies – how often do you realize God is molding you, and thank him for the experience?
Joseph’s family was more dysfunctional than yours or mine, but God used the siblings’ evil intent for His purposes. Faith and wisdom develop from suffering. Do you desire only pleasure? Take this opportunity to pray! Spirit of God, descend upon my heart; Wean it from earth, through all its pulses move; Stoop to my weakness,
mighty as you are, And help me love you as I ought to love. Amen
Today, Pray for Christians and SDB brethren in South America: Brazil, Chile, Argentina and developing groups in the area.
Because of their misery in Egypt the children of Israel had cried to the Lord,who did not question them or determine their desires, but laid before them rules of cleanliness and conduct, and in Leviticus 11:45 declared His expectations: “For I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy”. In the Old Testament there are 12 places where God is described as jealous. In each place there is a warning that God is not tolerant when service or worship is divided between Him and anything else.
This was not an agreement between two parties; it was God’s declaration that the Israelites were exclusively His own. There were rules and laws; there were promises for obedience, and punishment for disobedience, so – how was the situation improved for the average Israelite? You know the rest of this story, don’t you?
Here is another example of exclusive unity in Scripture: In Matthew 19:3 – 9 Jesus answers a Pharisee’s question, (“Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for just any reason?” ) by referring to Genesis 2:24, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife: and they shall become one flesh.’ “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate.” The Pharisees, attempting to trap Jesus, respond (vs.7), “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” Jesus answers (vss.8-9), “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”
In both examples above, these unities exclude other additions. The Israelites were forbidden to add other deities, and when they did – God punished them, but he never abandoned them. God designed marriage for two individuals. When ancient or modern law-makers accommodate for “hardness of heart” that does not change the Creator’s intent, limit His Justice, or decrease His mercy. Christians may have varying opinions, but we can act in love and defer all judgment to God. We are primarily responsible for judging and correcting our own attitudes, words, deportment, temptations and sins, living in the world, but not of the world. How often do you judge and confess your faults and sins before the Lord, asking for his forgiveness, mercy and help in correcting them?
Here are the 12 places in Scripture (KJ, ASV, RSV) where God is described as jealous: Exodus 20:5 & 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24 & 5:9 & 6:5; Joshua 24:19; Ezekiel 39:25; Joel 2:18; Zechariah 1:14 & 8:2 (3x). Another translation (NKJ) substitutes zealous in the Joel or great fervor in the Zechariah passages above, so the count varies among the newer translations or paraphrased Bibles.
What changed for the ordinary slaves - descendants of Israel? Certainly not attitude! They had seen miracles – plagues in Egypt, deliverance and destruction at the Red Sea, manna in the desert and the twin guiding pillars of daylight smoke and nocturnal fire – but bitter and long simmering resentment blinded them to the change which occurred. What they could understand was they had been delivered from one kind of slavery by a more powerful
Owner whose taskmaster was an 80-year-old man who had married an Ethiopian foreigner (Numbers 12:1).
According to Exodus 6:9 these former slaves were affected by “anguish of spirit and cruel bondage”. They must have thought that years of suffering should be compensated by a life free of work and responsibility, but immediately there were rules and tasks. From their embittered and distrustful viewpoint nothing had changed and they saw no benefit for themselves.
Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive my foolish ways. Re-clothe me in my rightful mind; In deeper love your service find; in deeper reverence praise. Search me, O God and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen
Today: Pray for Christians in Europe: for our SDB brethren in The Netherlands, Poland and Britain, also for France, Germany and Estonia. Oh yes – How long has it been since you confessed your faults and sins to the Lord?
If you are normal, you like some people better than others, and dislike some people more than others. Sometimes you are hurt when you discover the people you like the most ignore you, and prefer to befriend other people – even those you dislike. At other times you are annoyed when people you can hardly tolerate tirelessly try to encourage you to like them.
Do you remember when you first discovered this? Did you overhear parents or family members express negative comments about someone, and then watch in amazement as they pretended to be friendly with the person you knew they disliked? Perhaps you were told by parents to “be nice” to a child you detested because your parents liked the child’s parents, or you might have been told not to play with a neighbor’s child because “they aren’t our kind of people”. Can you remember a child you liked who liked you, but discovered that child’s parents and your parents disliked each other, so you were forbidden to play together? But let us now think beyond when you were six or seven.
If you have no idea what I’m describing in the two preceding paragraphs you are richly blest. Paul, writing to the Corinthian church, (1st Corinthians 1:10-13 and 11:17-18) calls them divisions. I see them as selective unities of three kinds, some opposed and detrimental to the unity Jesus prayed for his disciples, others – God’s plan for spreading the Gospel, and finally, those which are worldly. Most of us voluntarily join many groups, but – as Christians – we know one Great Day we must give an account.
In Matthew 5-7 (the Sermon on the Mount), Jesus is teaching his disciples what it means to be the light of the world. Verses 42 – 48 of chapter 5 are printed in the New King James version below for today’s meditation:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends forth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Of the five commands above, how many do you always do?
According to Isaiah 66:5; Matthew 24:9-13; Luke 6:22-26 & 21:12-17; John 15:18-16:2 & 17:13-21 and First John 3:13 If you are a Christian, you will be hated, rejected, and suffer tribulation (John 16:33). Begin this Week of Prayer by counting your enemies. Who hates you openly and intentionally? Who wants nothing to do with you? Whose words have hurt you unintentionally? Which of your friends or family draw you from your relationship with God toward pleasures the world offers? Your enemies include not only those who hate you, but also those who love you that would divert you from unity with God’s will.
Pray for them now!
Father, I pray for my enemies – for those who hate me, but also for those who love me but would take me from your path and truth. I ask for your Holy Spirit’s presence in areas I have not surrendered to your will, that by His work in me I may be a powerful witness of your mercy to those who may repent. Amen
Today: Pray for Christians suffering for their faith in Africa and for our SDB brethren in Kenya, Burundi, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, and new groups in those regions like Uganda and Rwanda (and for their enemies!). Oh – and of the categories of enemies (Matthew 5:42-48) – how are you doing?