"Bring me the head of John the Baptist on a platter!" Matthew 14:8
The beheading of John the Baptist happened 2000 years ago because John was brave enough to convict Herod of wrong doing in God's eyes. Today many Christians are being beheaded just for being Christian. In Pakistan, a Christian couple was beaten and burned in an brick making oven after being accused of burning the Koran. They were just bringing out the trash as part of their job in a brick making factory.
Pastor Kevin White has shepherded a flock of 6000 Christians and a minority of Jews in Iraq for a decade. He has played a key role in freeing hostages as the envoy of the Bishop of Canterbury. But because of the advance of Islamic terrorists, more than a thousand members of his congregation have been murdered including some of his staff and some children. From 6000 they are now 1000 including the remaining 6 Jews in the place where Abraham was born.
Just like in Jesus' day, when Herod tried to stop John from proclaiming the truth, we can be sure that no amount of persecution will stop God's work. Beheadings, burnings, silencing of Christians will not halt the spread of the Gospel. God's Kingdom advances!!! We can be sure if that!
"I cannot carry all this people by myself, for they are too heavy for me." Numbers 11:14
Poor Moses! Asked to lead a people through the wilderness to the land of Canaan, their promised land. The Jews were always grumbling, even though they witnessed miracles and wonders. They actually longed to go back to their life of slavery in Egypt! I think it is but natural that Moses would complain to God about the responsibility given to him. Sometimes we complain too. When our backs start aching. When the task at hand seems thankless. When no one seems to realize how hard we are working. When we feel unappreciated. When we feel our load is just too heavy.
Sometimes when we need to assemble something, we get frustrated at the instructions. Sometimes we even want to give up! The instructions are just too complicated to understand! What to do? We need to look at the box cover to see what the bits and pieces will look like once the work is over. We need to see the outcome.
I think it is the same with our work for the Lord. Take my job, for instance. I have so much to do, it can seem overwhelming at times. Never ending. Too many details to remember and follow through on. When I get frustrated, I just need to look at the big picture. What is God's plan? Our business is almost 50 years old, and sometimes, because of the many little and big things that need to be done, I can feel we are travelling through a never ending wilderness. But God has led us through that wilderness even if sometimes we did not know what we were doing. Step by step, he gets us through the challenges. There has not been a single time he left us to cope on our own. How many people has He helped through our business though the years? How many people has He inspired and encouraged? Yes, we are all pilgrims on a journey, and we always need to focus on the big picture, the picture on the box, the vision God paints for us in His word.
"Since you have heard and read all about Him and have learned the truth...there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes. You must display a NEW NATURE because you are a NEW PERSON..." Ephesians 4:21-24
Last Saturday we celebrated the 10th anniversary of Pathways Ministry, a prayer group under our community which ministers to all kinds of peoples from different walks of life. I was so inspired listening to several testimonies of changed lives. Marriages broken by infidelity and bitterness were mended. A drug addict caught in an entrapment now serving the Lord. A businessman whose priority was advancement in his career now puts God first. If I turn the flashlight on my life, I cannot say there has been a dramatic change. There was no big bad sin in my past that I needed to turn away from. But I still need a spiritual renewal of my thoughts and attitudes. I need a change in the way I speak. I need to be kinder, and more loving. And I especially need patience! I know I can be a really horrible person. And if I let the world influence the way I think, I can become greedy, acting entitled all the time, combative, and unkind. I have to be careful about what and who I surround myself with. It is just too easy to fall into the enemy's traps!!!!
Do we want to be a new person, the best we can be? Then we need to look for people who will help us to become that person! We have to read good books and we need to refrain from watching TV shows and movies that will influence us in the other direction. We need to be purposeful in pursuing that "new man or woman created in God's image". But we do not go off on this quest alone- "Be confident of this, He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion." Philippians 1:6
"You shall bring the first fruits of your harvest to the priest..." Leviticus 23:10-11
Paul Washer is an evangelist I regularly listen to for his earnest and heart rending preaching. He said that although most people stop reading the Bible because of tediousness of the book of Leviticus, that is where we can find biblical principles to live our life by. The main focus of the book of Leviticus is that God is holy and we should worship Him.
Although Leviticus shows us how free we are in Christ, how the demands of God's holiness are met in Christ, it also shows us what is important to God. For instance, how serious some sins are because of the punishment meted out for it. Here in Leviticus 23, we see how God wants us to offer Him our first fruits. Not because He needs it, but because it is part of our worship.
I have tithed ever since I was single and I have found that He really takes care of me and all that I need, and even provides for helping others. I remember when my brother in law found it hard to tithe and my sister would keep convincing him to do so. He could not imagine giving the money away when he was having a hard time providing for his family. He even wanted to go abroad in search of a better livelihood. But out of obedience to God, he decided to tithe. Now he has a thriving practice, has enough money to travel around the world, and help generously where it is needed.
God is indeed faithful and I have witnessed that indeed, obedience brings blessing!
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