Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Paul’s Entourage

Have you ever picked a book up off your shelf and wondered, “Have I read this?” You read the back jacket and leaf through some pages, and you’re still not sure. The average human has a limited memory capacity. That is why I love doing my daily Bible reading. I highly recommend it. There are so many things one misses or forgets over time. Even though I know I have read the Bible through several times, I often say to myself, “I don’t remember that.” Case in point was my reading yesterday in the Book of Acts or Acts of the Apostles.

The Book of Acts was written by Luke. Luke was a physician, a Gentile, and a close friend and traveling companion of the Apostle Paul. In fact, in Philippians, Paul refers to Luke as a “fellow laborer.” Luke also personally knew Peter and the other disciples.

In Chapter 20:4-6, we read, “Several men were traveling with him. They were Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea; Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica; Gaius from Derbe; Timothy; and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. They went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. After the Passover ended, we boarded a ship at Philippi in Macedonia and five days later joined them in Troas, where we stayed a week.”

Paul has quite an entourage, don’t you think? Have you ever heard of these guys? I didn’t remember them. What this story reminded me of is how many unknown, unnamed faithful people have served the cause of Christ. Sopater and Aristarchus are not as famous as Matthew or John, but they are no less important.

I know there is a little part of every pastor who yearns to be the next Billy Graham or as famous as Joel Osteen. However, for every one of them, there are thousands of faithful servants pastoring tiny churches all over this country. They are preaching the gospel, sharing the truth, ministering to their communities. We will never know their names.

The same goes for every single one of us. All of us are called to love and to serve, first in our families, then in our communities. The world may never know our names, but God does. He created you. He called you. As Psalm 139 reminds us, “You [God] know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord” (Psalm 139:2-4).

Yes, God knows you, and that’s all that really matters. So, continue to do what you do to serve the Lord, and one day you will hear Jesus say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

----------------------------------------

Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

My Mezuzah


I was born into a Catholic family and my earliest memories of church is of the wonderful liturgy in the faith. There is so much to see when one attends a Catholic mass. From the statues to look at, the stained glass, the stations of the cross, to making the sign of the cross before praying, as well as reciting the responses, “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.” “The Lord be with you. And also with you. Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give Him thanks and praise.” I enjoyed that.

Unfortunately, I believe the Protestant Reformers occasionally threw the baby out with the bath water when it came to liturgy. Instead of debating each liturgical action on its own biblical and symbolic merits, if it was deemed “too Catholic” it was tossed out. 

For instance, I am a visual person, and I like the priest’s preparation of the Eucharist. He takes a cruet with wine in it and pours it into the chalice. He then takes a cruet with water and pours a little into the chalice as well. Do you know why? The wine represents Jesus’ divinity. The water represents His humanity. Jesus was both 100% God and 100% man, so both should be in the chalice. I love that. I think that’s wonderful! I find it meaningful. Alas, it is too Catholic so we Protestants don’t do it. I think that’s too bad. As long as liturgy or the implements used in it, do not become idols, or are thought to have some sort of holy power, any visual aids that help deepen our worship of God, I believe can be a blessing.         

As an example, I recently watched the first season of the series “The Chosen.” This is a crowd-funded series about Jesus you can only access on the internet. It is amazing! I highly recommend it! It is free to watch on your smartphone, tablet, or computer, and if you have a streaming service like Roku or Amazon Fire Stick, you can even connect it to your television, which is what I did. Watch it! You will be blessed!

One of things I noticed while watching was when people entered or left their homes they kissed their fingers and touched their doorframes. It seemed odd, but happened so often I was intrigued. After a little research, I discovered the small case or tube attached to the doorpost they were touching is called a Mezuzah, which literally translates “doorpost.” Inside the Mezuzah is a scroll on which is written in Hebrew two portions of Deuteronomy – 6:4-9 and 11:13-21.  

These verses comprise the Jewish prayer called Shema Yisroel, which begins “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One” (Deut. 6:4). The verses that follow are the basis for the practice of hanging the
Mezuzah. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deut. 6:5-9).

Jews touch their fingers to their lips when they enter or exit and then touch the Mezuzah, thereby “kissing” the Mezuzah and the Word of God it contains to remind them to commit wholeheartedly to God’s commands as well as to teach them to their children. I love that! Although hanging a Mezuzah is a Jewish custom, some Christians have begun displaying the Mezuzah on their doorpost as well, using it as a testimony of their love for God’s Word and as a conversation starter to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Biblically, as long as it is not thought of as a good luck charm or a source of power in itself, there is nothing wrong with hanging a Mezuzah in your home. A Mezuzah can serve to remind a Christian family to love God, teach the Scriptures to their children, and praise the Messiah Jesus for His atoning blood. Subsequently, this Mezuzah will be attached to the doorpost at my home. A reminder to love God, teach the Scriptures, and praise Jesus. Anything that can help deepen our relationship with God, I believe is a blessing.            

----------------------------------------

Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Neighbors


Understandably, all sorts of people had all kinds of questions for Jesus. In Luke 10:25-28, we read, “One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: ‘Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus replied, ‘What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?’ The man answered, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘Right!’ Jesus told him. ‘Do this and you will live!’”

Jewish tradition recognizes 613 commandments. When asked to choose one, this man had a 99.8% chance of getting it wrong, and he nailed it! Imagine being praised by Jesus. How awesome would that be? However, although he answered correctly to begin with, his follow up question reveals more about his heart. Verse 29, “The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” Jesus goes on to tell the story of the Good Samaritan. This “expert in religious law” obviously knew the law, but it had not changed him at all. He was “trying to justify his actions.” Did you catch that? What actions? There are obviously people he did not see as his neighbor. Those he did not “approve” of, the “others,” the “unclean,” the “unrighteous.” One of those groups were the Samaritans, which is exactly why Jesus tells this parable where the “hero” of the story is a Samaritan.

As Christians, we believe we must love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and all our mind, as well as loving our neighbors as ourselves. However, during times like these, perhaps we should all honestly ask ourselves, are there any Samaritans in my life? Any person or group of people we do not view as our “neighbors?” Do we see them as the “others,” unworthy of our compassion and love? Do we try to justify or rationalize such feelings?

More importantly than knowing the answer to Jesus’ question is living out the answer every day. Followers of Jesus should be known, recognizable, not because they get the highest score on the quiz, but because of our service, mercy, compassion, grace, and especially our love. The world should see in us the truth that we love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and that we love others – all others – the same way. After all, the Bible says, “Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).        

----------------------------------------

Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.