Faith In Spite Of Suffering

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Turning Suffering Into a Testimony

Sad as it is true, life is filled with pain.  Unfortunately, many crises in our lives are not of our own doing, but have come about simply out of the unfortunate circumstances of life.  At other times, our suffering does come at the hands of others and so we have no control when it strikes us.

One of my readers of “The Listening Post” has shared confidentially with me about how hard her life has been, but she has a great testimony of faith and trust in God.  It is her desire to have her testimony shared so that it can be of encouragement to others who may have gone through similar experiences.  I will call her Shelly for the sake of her privacy.  Let me summarize for you Shelly’s story:

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“When I was a little girl, my Mom gave me away.  I have been in Foster Homes and badly beaten. I had no one to care for me.  But through everything, God was there.  At age 3, my Dad got me back.  He worked in the coal mines.  He pulled me from a burning house.  I was almost killed in two house fires and a car wreck, but God was there.

“I grew to 6 years old and had to take care of my 2 year old sister.  I cooked and cleaned and had to learn on my own.  I had stayed with my cousins who were ages 13 and age 3.  This was the second house that caught fire.  My Dad came running up the street and pulled me out, but my two cousins did not make it out.  But God was there for me.

“In 1982, two days before my graduation from school, I was sexually assaulted.  I went to the Counsellor’s office who listened and she went to the principal and they helped.  I suffered a lot in that last week of June.  But God helped me through.  There was one woman who treated me like her daughter who helped me, and when I visited her one day, I saw the picture of her oldest son.  I fell in love and so the woman called him up and told him a Christian girl wanted to meet him. 

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“He came to see me, and we fell in love at first sight.  We went together for five months and in November we got married.  But then he got sick in January and went into a hospital.  It was snowing a lot and I had to thumb a ride to the hospital in the middle of that winder storm.  The snow was up to my knees.  But I kept my faith, and God took care of us.  I knew that He was with us. 

“My husband got well and came home from the hospital in March.  He got well, and I got pregnant and gave birth to a son on December 18.  We walked everywhere, going to the stores, and to the doctors, or wherever.  We lived in a small trailer.  In ’87 I became pregnant again, and then two weeks before time to give birth I was in a car wreck.  On May 6, I gave birth to a baby boy, but he died.  It took three doctors to bring him back to life.  God had his hand in it.  He was my miracle baby. 

“Jobs were hard to get so we moved a couple time.  My brother committed suicide, but before he did, he tried to kill me and my two sons.  God was our shield and protected us.  I had some more pregnancies after that time, another son in ’92, but then lost twin girls.  We had to move a lot across Texas for my husband to find different work.  God was there and helped him find work. 

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“We did go to one church while in one town in Texas.  My son got in trouble and went to jail for 6 years.  The church turned us away, but I still knew God was with us.  Then we found a good church in Waskom, Texas and we stayed with them and the town there for eight years.  I helped out in the church, I cleaned it and handed out cards and sent birthday and get well cards.  But then we got a letter from the city that put us out of our home and on to the streets.

“The trailers in this park were not moveable and the owners were selling the land where we rented.  They wanted to build on the land.  Our pastor tried everything he could to help us.  But none of the plans succeeded.  So our church gave us a going away party.  Well, a week before this my husband called his dad who found us a trailer to live in Charleston, West Virginia.  We did not have money to move.   But our church took up a collection and we got enough to make the move. 

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“We got there in November, but the trailer had no water or heat for one month.  But God was still there.  I still have my Lord and Savior.  We were there for one week and we were looking for a good church.  And God brought us to a wonderful church.  We went in and the next thing we knew the church welcomed us with open arms, as if they were waiting for us to arrive.  WOW!!  Our God is awesome. 

“Within a week I was going to the quilting ministry group.  The church loved us and they helped us with almost $500 so we could get our water and electricity turned on.  God is so Great.  We are still Christians who are living for our Jesus.  We have helped many young people and took them off the streets and into our home.  We gave them food and shelter.  And many days now, God keeps blessing us.  Our church in Texas loves us and still misses us.  And the church here loves us too.  My life is great with my God, and His blessings keep on coming.”

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Thank you Shelly for sharing about your faith, telling us of how much you love God and God loves you, and how you show the compassion of Jesus to others who are in need.  May we all learn from you how to be stronger Christians ourselves.  Amen.

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“You Must Be Born Again” – Pt. 1

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John 3:1 – 8

3  1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

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Chapter 3 of the Gospel of John begins with a fascinating dialog between Jesus and one of the religious leaders named Nicodemus.  The entire dialog goes from verse 1 to verse 21, but I will split this up into three Bible study articles.  There are surprises in store for both Nicodemus and Jesus in this encounter as we will see.

Throughout the dialog, there are some very important themes raised, such as light vs. darkness, regeneration (or the “new birth”), earthly things vs. spiritual things, and the Jewish concept of Rabbi or “Teacher”.  I hope to touch on all of these themes in my three articles.  But first, to give us some context to this story, we must take a close look at who is this man, Nicodemus.

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There is a lot we can learn about Nicodemus in verses 1 and 2.  Immediately we are told that he was “a man of the Pharisees”.  There were many religious groups that existed during the time of Jesus and the most predominant one was the Pharisees.  In Katherine Barnwell’s book “Key Biblical Terms”, she writes this:

Some Pharisees were priests, but many were lay people. They were the party of the common people, in contrast to the Sadducees who were from the rich “upper class”. The leaders of the Pharisees were scribes, but most Pharisees were not trained as scribes; they were ordinary traders and workers.

Now although not all received formal training like the Scribes, most all of them would have received great quantities of informal oral training by literally sitting at the feet of older Pharisees who passed on the traditions of Judaism and their interpretations of the Old Testament scriptures.  In fact, to be a Rabbi, one had to have studied under other well recognized Pharisees.

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Nicodemus though, is not just any average Pharisee; for John writes that he was “a ruler of the Jews”.  He is one of the top leaders of this religious group, very possibly a scribe and perhaps even a member of the Jewish ruling Council, the Sanhedrin.  And yet, notice how he comes to Jesus and approaches him.

We note that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, and that he has great respect for him since he addressed Jesus as “Rabbi”.  This is quite surprising, seeing as the Pharisees would already have learned that Jesus had not been trained within the Pharisaical order.  Therefore, many scholars think that he came to Jesus during the night partly out of fear of being found out.

So we have a prominent religious leader meeting secretly with Jesus to discuss spiritual matters of great importance.  We learn from verse 2 that Nicodemus has seen (or at least heard about) some of the miracles that Jesus had performed in Jerusalem, and he states his belief that only a man who has been sent by God could perform such mighty acts.

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Then in the next two verses, we see that Nicodemus and Jesus are definitely not on the same page together.  Jesus mentions “entering the Kingdom of God”, a very important topic to the Pharisees.  But Jesus says that a man must be “born again” to be able to enter in.  Nicodemus’ answer shows he lacks the ability to comprehend this statement by asking Jesus how it could ever be possible to re-enter a mother’s womb to be reborn.

Jesus goes on to tell us that there are two realities, the things that pertain to this life and this world (i.e. “the things of the flesh”), and there are things that pertain to spiritual life and the eternal realm (i.e. “the things of the Spirit).  Another way of looking at this is that the “flesh” deals with the physical and the external practices (which the Pharisees were so stuck on in their ritualism), while the “Spirit” deals with the spiritual and inner person.

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Jesus is surprised that Nicodemus is surprised at this teaching.  Then Jesus ends this first part of the dialog by stating that while we cannot see a person become spiritually renewed, just like the wind, we can see the effects of a life that has been transformed and become brand new, or reborn as Jesus would say.

Let me ask you who read this article: does this all make sense to you?  Or are you feeling lost just like Nicodemus was?  Christianity is not a set of rules or regulations to be kept (as the Pharisees believed), but rather it is a relationship between God, who is Spirit, and us, who are also spiritual beings.  Being reborn in our inner self is our “entry ticket” into Heaven.

Satan Is The True Enemy – Pt. 1

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 3

In Chapter Two of “GOD’S STORY, your story,” Max Lucado reminds us of how dangerous our true enemy is, whom we call “Satan”. Lucado gives us an overview of the great battle that occurred in the Judean desert so long ago between Jesus and Satan. Jesus is tempted to “look out for number one” (to turn stones into bread because He was hungry).

Then Satan encourages Jesus to show off His great powers and impress the religious people by jumping off the Temple pinnacle and having thousands of angels swoop in and rescue Him. And finally, Satan tries to bribe Jesus by offering to Him all the riches of the world, if only Jesus would bow down and worship him.

But as Lucado says, “Satan just showed his cards. He wants worship. He wants you and me to tell him how great he is. He wants to write his own story in shich he is the hero and God is an afterthought.” (p. 50)

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What Lucado does very well in this chapter, is to give us a clear of how devious Satan is, and how much we must remain on guard against all of his crafty schemes and strategies to tear us away from God. In fact, as Lucado points out, the root word for “devil” which is a character trait of Satan carries within it the idea of “splitter” or “divider”. And he will use any means possible to do just that, keep us divided and separated from God.

This all reminds me of one of C. S. Lewis’ most famous best seller books called, “The Screwtape Letters.” In this book, the main character is Uncle Wormword, one of the senior demons of Satan, who (fictitiously) wrote letters to his much junior demon Screwtape, who happened to be his nephew.

What is fascinating about Lewis’ book is that he suggests that some of the best strategies of Satan are not the all-out-frontal attacks that we might expect. But rather, Satan often succeeds the best if we end up being complacent about our spirituality and do nothing to pursue a relationship with God. But if Satan must step in, he will use such sly tactics as materialism, self-centered egos, or just plain old busyness of life.

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Listen to how Lucado points out these very same thoughts on pages 42 – 43:

Distraction would work better. I hate spiritual focus. When you or one like you gazes intently on God for any length of time, you begin to act like Him. A nauseating sense of justice and virtue comes over you. You talk to God, not just once a week, but all the time. Intolerable.

So I’d perch myself on every corner and stairwell of your world, clamouring for your attention. I’d flood you with e-mails and to-do lists. Entice you with shopping sprees and latest releases and newest styles. Burden you with deadlines and assignments.

If I were the devil, I’d so distract you with possessions and problems that you’d never have time to read the Bible.

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I believe this last sentence of the quote above should be sounding an alarm for all of us who are believers in Christ. If we think that there is no time in our lives to read God’s word on a regular basis, then our lives are out of balance with what is truly important. Even worse, if any of us think we don’t need to be reading God’s Word as part of our daily and weekly lives, then Satan will find it that much more easy to bend us to his will, rather than God’s Word bending us to God’s will.

Here, let’s get even more clear and specific about who we are up against. Scripture describes Satan in the following ways (quoted from pages 45 – 46):

Serpent (Genesis 3:14; Revelation 12:9; 20:2)            Enemy (Matthew 13:25, 39)
Tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5)               Father of Lies (John 6:44)
Evil One (Matthew 13:19; 1 John 2:13 – 14)                Deceiver (Revelation 12:9)
Dragon (Revelation 12:7, 9; 20:2)                               Roaring Lion (1 Peter 5:5)
Prince of Demons (Mark 3:22)

These are only some of the names that are used to describe what Satan is like. I’m sure we can find much more in Scripture to tell us just exactly who our true spiritual enemy is.

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So what is the point of all this discussion? Namely this: if we are to really understand how the story of our lives fit into the bigger story of God’s life, then we need to also realize that while we are in this life, and this world, Satan too is a part of that picture. We should not be taken by surprise as much as we are when bad and terrible things happen. There is an author behind all this — Satan.

What we need to do is to follow the example that Jesus gave to us when He faced off with Satan in the wilderness. We must be confident of who God is. We must continually be reading God’s Word and putting it into our hearts so that we have the spiritual tools to fight back against Satan. And we must trust that God can and will bring us through these times of spiritual wilderness experiences as well as the spiritual battles that come our way in life.

An excellent preacher I know has said that research into spirituals habits show that reading the Bible up to three times a week shows little improvement in the overall wellbeing of a person (emotionally, spiritually, and otherwise). But those who read the Bible on average four times a week or more, have better marriages, families, church experiences, general health and success in business. So what are you waiting for. Get out your Bibles, turn to God, and resist Satan and his ways. He is the Enemy.

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

God Loves Ordinary People – Pt. 2

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 2

Every second Saturday of each month this year, I will be writing an article about this book by Max Lucado called, “GOD’S STORY, your story.” The first article per month will be an overview and my reflections on what is in the chapter for that month. The second article will pull out some of the questions from the back of the book. Listen to what Lucado’s intentions are for this section:

This guide is designed to help you reflect on God’s Story, Your Story and take action on the ideas contained in the book, to see how your own story fits into the grand plot of God’s story. Each chapter guide has questions to consider on your own or with a group devoted to discussing the book. Have your Bible handy in order to dig into the Scripture verses noted.       (p. 173)

There are certainly enough thought provoking questions and action points included within each chapter study guide to keep a person or a small group engaged in learning and growing more spiritually. It is not my intention to copy out these entire study guide sections. Rather, I will pick out a few questions from each section and reflect on them in my articles. I pray that you may find my reflections helpful and stimulating to your own spiritual growth.

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Chapter 1: When God’s Story Becomes Yours….

ORDINARY MATTERS

Question #4: Discuss how it might be reassuring that Jesus was “normal” and like you in many ways? How might it be reassuring to know he is unlike you in other ways?

I think what bothers me most about my own Christian walk is the great number of times that I blow it and I do not act in a godly way. This can be simple things like not wanting to talk with the person next to me on the plane, or turning my head away when I see the beggar on the street corner. It’s much more serious when I allow myself to become angry with someone else, when I allow lustful thoughts to dwell in my mind, or I become proud or arrogant.

It’s at these times that I remember that Jesus was just as much a human as I am. I’m sure there must have been times when he was exhausted from all his ministry work that he really didn’t want to see another person. I know that he got upset with the disciples often. And he must have had some struggles as a man in a world that had many attractive women around him.

But we are told in Hebrews 4:15, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” And in Hebrews 2:18, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” How wonderful it is to know that Jesus understands exactly what we are going through, and that he can help us get through it.

Question #5: Think about an ordinary person you know who has been a giver of extraordinary grace. What motivated that person?

When I think about someone who was quite ordinary by human standards, but was also a person of great humility and who demonstrated a wonderful spirit of compassion and service to others, I think of my Grandma. At a very young age, Grandma Knight determined that God was calling her to be a missionary to China. She went there in the 1920’s as a single woman, which speaks of her deep commitment to follow God wherever He would lead her.

She married my grandfather while in China, a British man who loved God but who she would say was a bit of a “stuffed shirt with a stiff collar.” But Grandma loved him, and served him well as a missionary wife. And she also served well the many demanding needs of a mission compound up to and through the beginning years of WW 2 over there, before they were recalled to Canada.

Then when my Grandfather became a minister in western Canada, Grandma would faithfully type out his sermons and patiently listen to him practice. They did this for many years. When Granddad died, Grandma continued to serve others by volunteering thousands of hours of service in our Calgary hospitals. And why did she commit her life to such service to God for all these years? Because she loved Jesus and she loved others, and she knew that by putting the love of God into action, others would come to see and know God too.

Question #7: In what ways do you need God to “dwell” with you this week? (See John 1:14)

This may sound bad, but I need an extra measure of God’s grace in this coming week and throughout the next month to really love these national men from Papua New Guinea that I am working with. We are working on the translation of the Gospel of John into their language.

The work of translating the Bible verse-by-verse into another language is very tedious and demanding. Most days, I find it to be a great joy to work with the Papuan people on these translation projects. But there are also many frustrating days where the heat in the room is not just the hot sun beating down; it can be easy after long days to let tempers flare and frustrations stop our progress.

So I ask for all who read this article to say an extra prayer for us as we work on this translation. We are hoping to smooth out a good translation of John in a six week period. Then it will be ready for the last consultant check before being published. Pray that I remember the goal: getting the Word of God into the hands of the people here in PNG.

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

Love, Sex and Romance

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What Does The Bible Say About This?

I think it is time for me to write about this subject that is so misunderstood.  I believe that people without faith in God have it wrong, mostly because they have no higher standard than themselves to guide their thinking and their actions.  I believe that many Christians have it wrong, either because their church traditions placed a taboo on this topic long ago, or because they are being too influenced by the thinking of the world around them.

For the most part, Western culture has placed way too much significance and emphasis on the physical aspect of love, and has neglected to nurture the emotional and spiritual side of relationships between a man and a woman.  As portrayed in Hollywood, a quick physical/emotional response when meeting someone (which they call “being in love”) leads just as quickly to sexual intercourse (as a means to demonstrate their “love”), and the longer road of relationship building is barely mentioned.

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Today is Valentine’s Day, a highly commercialized day, but still a good day to remind us to demonstrate our affections towards our friend/partner/mate.  Jill and I have been married for 27 years now, and we are going to celebrate Valentine’s Day in a very special way this year.  Jill is flying internationally from Canada, bouncing off of Los Angeles, Brisbane (Australia) and Port Moresby (PNG) to arrive midday on Feb. 14th in Madang, Papua New Guinea.  On this same day, I am coming down from the highlands of PNG to arrive just before Jill in Madang.

Over the past six months, for health and ministry reasons, Jill and I have only had 27 days together.  Now we will be reunited on Valentine’s Day for six weeks, halfway around the world from our home in Canada.  Is that romantic, or what?  There is no doubt that being away from each other has been difficult for both of us.  But we have a bond that keeps us strong in our marriage that is bigger than just the two of us.  We are both strongly united to God by our faith and that helps keep us strongly united to each other.

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So what does the Bible say about love, sex and romance.  Let’s talk about love first so that we can set the stage properly for understanding sex and romance.  It is not uncommon for most people to adopt the proverb “Love your friends but hate your enemies,” as Jesus mentions in Matthew 5:43.  But then he turns this proverb on its head by saying, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”

These are not empty words that Jesus spoke, for the Bible describes us (who all sin against a holy God) as his enemies, and yet Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Jesus also said in John 15:12, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” God has shown us clearly that love, real love for another, is not just an emotion.  It is a deep commitment to want the very best for the other and is demonstrated through our actions.

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Now don’t misunderstand me.  Even though real love is an act of the will, there is a component of emotional response that is also real.  There is no doubt that there is a certain “chemistry” or attraction that will happen between a man and a woman.  Nurtured and matured properly, it will fulfill what God intended from the beginning, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

What we must come to accept once again is that the sexual joining of a man and a woman is to take place within the God-ordained limits of the marriage commitment of husband and wife.  Paul says it well in 1 Corinthians 7:8 – 9, “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.  But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

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Paul recognizes that sex is a passionate drive within all of us.  God designed us this way.  And He approves of it, as long as it stays within the context of a husband and his wife.  If you don’t believe that God approves the act of passionate sex, then you need to read the “Song of Solomon” (also called “Song of Songs”).  Read especially chapter 7 and see how passionate biblical love likes like.

But lest we read the Song of Songs in the wrong way, study it more closely and you will see that the book is full of praise for each other.  There is a winning and a wooing of each other’s affections.  This is true romance.  And what we are reminded of by good family counsellors, yet fail to follow very often, is that this kind of romance should be an ongoing part of a marriage.  The best way to hasten the end of a marriage is to take one’s mate totally for granted and think that there is no need to be romantic any more.

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I hope my thoughts have been helpful.  We are bombarded with so much garbage and misinformation in all the movies and magazines that are not just “out there” but are in most of our homes today.  I really look forward to my reunion with my wife and the time we will spend together over the next month and a half.  I’m looking forward to holding hands again, sitting and watching a movie together, going out to a nice restaurant.  I look forward to romancing my wife once more.

Who Is John the Baptist

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John 1:19 – 28

John’s Testimony Concerning Himself

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

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In our study today of the Gospel of John, we see that “the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’”  This may appear to be an innocent request from some of the religious leaders of John’s day, but that could not be further from the truth.  These leaders are mystified by John’s ministry, and his success as mentioned in Matthew 3:5 – 6, immediately leads them into a conflict with each other.

You would think that the question “Who are you?” was rather straight forward and simple.  What’s interesting is John’s response, “I am not the Christ.”  Obviously there is more going on here than our text is able to tell us.  Clearly these priests were expecting John to be some great person since they went on to ask him whether he had the spirit of one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament, or even the special “Prophet” that Moses hinted about in Deuteronomy 18:18.

In order to understand what is happening, we must look at some of the key words in this text, and then build a picture that makes sense of all of the parts.  Then we will understand what’s going on.  So allow me to give you some important Old and New Testament background, and then let me ask each of us an important question, especially to those of us who are in Christian leadership positions.

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In John’s Gospel, even more than in the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke, the term “the Jews” which occasionally does refer to all members of the Jewish nation, is much more narrowly used by John.  Throughout John’s book, “the Jews” are for the most part the religious leaders (comprised of Pharisees, Sadducees, and the scribes who were experts in the Law of Moses, the priests, the Levites and the elders of the nation).

And we constantly see “the Jews” debating and arguing with Jesus and ultimately demanding that Jesus be crucified. What first starts as arrogance and skeptical resistance, turns in time to become defiant challenge and then open hostility.  So you can pretty much know then from the start that these are the bad guys, the antagonists to all the men of God, and by extension are found to be the enemies of God.

But they should have known better.  They were the inheritors of the Word of God, and the protectors of the Temple and the religious rituals that were to lead the people into the true worship of God.  And we too see time and time again, that it is the church leadership which has become cemented in its ways of religious traditions that have actually managed to keep people away from finding God for themselves.

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And so they challenged John, what he was doing, where he was from, and from whom he got the authority to lead this spiritual revival.  (It certainly did not come from the Jewish leaders.)  But they figured if John was not sponsored within their religious structures, then perhaps he must be one of the three great people who were prophesied in the Old Testament who would come back to help the nation of Israel.

But even before they speak, John denies that he is not the Promised Messiah, the Christ (or Anointed One) whom God would one day send to rescue the nation Israel and becomes its King.  Unfortunately, the leaders and the people had it wrong and thought God would send a human political Saviour who would rescue the nation from the oppression of the Roman occupying forces in Palestine.

But John also said he is not “The Prophet” who would be just like the greatest Old Testament leader, Moses, who rescued Israel out of Egypt.  In Deuteronomy 18:18, Moses prophesied that a Great Prophet like him would one day come to help Israel.  But that was not to be John.  And in Malachi 4:5, the second last verse of the Old Testament, a prophecy was made that Elijah would return before the coming of the Lord.

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I can say that these Jewish leaders had some good questions in one sense.  They knew that John was special.  They just did not know how or why.  The truth of the matter is that John came as a simple servant of the Lord, and even in the midst of great success, he exercised even greater humility.  And why was that?  Because it is never meant to be about us, no matter how important we think we are at times.  No it is all about Jesus, the Man who would come after John.

So let me ask each of us who are Christians?  Are we more like The Jews, or are we more like John.  Think about it.

We Are God’s Ambassadors

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The following devotion comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

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Prayer Burdens

In an amazing statement, Jesus said to His Father: “And the glory which You gave Me, I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as you have loved Me” (John. 17:22, 23).

God’s pattern for saving the world is His own! In the Old Testament, when God purposed in His heart to save Nineveh, He called Jonah to go and preach to them. When Jonah finally obeyed, after God severely disciplined him, all Nineveh repented (Jon. 3:5-10). Down through history when God wanted nations to hear of His love, He chose, called, and sent prophets.

It is no different in our day. God’s people still hold the key to reaching a lost world. So, the biblical pattern in praying for a lost world is to pray for God’s people, as Jesus did. How do we practically implement this? When God places a burden on our heart for a nation, we need to pray for:
• The missionaries in that nation, using Jesus’ prayer for His disciples in John 17 as our guide
• The national believers and the churches in that nation
• Mission ministry groups
• Denominations
• For God’s people

The salvation of the nations rests with God’s people. Missionaries have shared the testimony that when they preached the gospel in some villages who had never heard before, these same villagers upon believing asked the missionaries: “How long have you known this good news? Why have you taken so long to come to us? Why did you not come before now? Our parents and others are in an eternity without God and without hope! If only you had come earlier!”

It has been mathematically calculated that if one person discipled another, and they in turn witnessed and discipled one each, and if this continued to multiply and each one hearing remained faithful to sharing with one other each week, it would take a short number of years for all 6.25 billion people in the world to hear the gospel and to be saved. We must pray for the world, by praying as Jesus did, for God’s own people.

–Adapted from Chapter 61 of Giving Ourselves to Prayer (The Bible and Global Prayer by Henry Blackaby).

Lord Jesus, each day, thousands of people you love die without hope…many without ever hearing Your lovely name! Give me, and the rest of Your people, a sense of urgency for finishing the task You gave us so long ago! I repent of my complacency and discomfort! Please fill me with renewed earnestness and determination to witness and to teach others how to live godly, holy lives.

Posted: 10 Oct 2011

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This same kind of prayer burden is becoming the model within our mission, Pioneer Bible Translators.  Not only do we pray for the people to whom we have been called by God to serve, but we are gathering to pray for each other.  Don’t get me wrong, we are not offering up naval-gazing prayers, you know, the ones that are only me-focused and look at life from a perspective of “What do I want, and when I pray in Jesus’ name, I will get that, right?”

No, I am talking about deep soul-searching and soul-wrenching prayer for all of us to be renewed spiritually within, so that the heart will be a fertile ground of exhibiting the genuine love of Christ for those who are perishing without the knowledge of God.  And especially, we pray for those people groups where they still as of today do not have any Scriptures yet published in their own mother-tongue language.

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It is not hard to see that PBT is a praying organization.  Most field Branches have a regular weekly prayer bulletin put together which is sent out to thousands of people who uphold our work in prayer.  There has been a drive to fill a 24/7 prayer schedule of the names of people who are solidly committed to offering up the “sacrifices of praise” and the prayers for the saints and the work of ministry of PBT.

This plan to have someone praying every hour throughout every week is not that many months old, and already there is about 47% of the prayer time slots that are filled.  Just imagine when the entire chart is filled.  We have seen some amazing things happen in PBT these past few years.  But once we have round-the-clock prayers, watch out, because God will do even more great and wonderful things.

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Even here in Dallas in the small circle of people I am with we are “breaking out in prayer”.  For the first time in a long time, we have a large number of people in the Dallas area who are interested in serving PBT over in Papua New Guinea.  And one of the first things we did (after going out for ice cream of course), was to form a prayer group that met each Tuesday at lunch hour so we could pray for each other and the work being done in PNG.

And then finally, let me mention an evening I spent with a family a few nights ago.  They invited me over for supper and to visit.  We had a great time eating and sharing with one another.  But it wasn’t long after we had finished the meal, and as we kept talking around the table, that we all felt that the appropriate way to close our evening together was to spend time praying together.

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Dear Readers:  I hope you too are catching the Spirit blowing and are hearing the call to prayer.  Do that, and you too will see God do great and marvelous things.

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