The Power of Two

When I was a new kid in town, to get to school, I had to walk past Billy Parsell’s house. Billy was bigger and stronger than me. Whenever I passed by, he would knock me down, hit me, and otherwise make my life miserable.

My dad had another plan. “Don’t walk alone to school anymore. Go  with your brother,” my dad advised. “The next time he comes at you, both of you pile on him and give him a good licking.” I wonder if Dad got that idea from Solomon who wrote: An attacker may defeat someone who is alone, but two can resist him. (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

It didn’t take long. One day, on my way home from school, Billy came at me with violence in his eyes. But I had my brother at my side. The two of us fought back. In no time we had him on the ground crying. What’s really crazy about this story is that a few months later, Billy, who hadn’t learned his lesson, tried it again. This time our pal Jimmy joined the fray.  As Solomon concluded: a three-stranded cord is not easily broken. I seem to remember a bloody nose. We never heard of Billy bullying anyone after that.

God was really smart when he decided to give Eve to Adam as a helpmate.  I don’t know what I would do without my Charlene.

And remember old Noah led those animals into the Ark two by two? Thank God Joshua had Caleb and John partnered with Peter. What would Paul have done if he had been beaten and put in an Ephesian jail all by his lonesome? But he had Silas. I’m not sure that story would have had the happy ending it had, if the two of them hadn’t been there for each other, encouraged each other to sing praises to God rather than get depressed.

Then there was Jesus, who, like his father, was really smart. He never sent his disciples out alone, but always in pairs. I seem to remember reading about a husband-wife team, a dynamic duo named Priscilla and Aquila. They not only got Apollos fired up in the ministry but were great assets to Paul’s work for the Lord.

The power of two or more is nowhere more effective than in prayer. You go into your prayer closet alone and God will surely be there with you. But if you want His special presence and power, find another one or two and unite together with them in prayer.

Both times I planted congregations, I joined in prayer with another for months beforehand. God did the rest.  I feel sorry for pastors who try to do the work of ministry by themselves. It’s a lonely and sometimes dangerous business. We all know of pastors whom the devil has picked off, often because they tried to go it alone.

So, if you want to do great things for God, put aside that rugged individualism.  Find at least one other person of like mind and go do it with them.

Your comments and questions encourage us. Join with our efforts to bring Christ’s body into dynamic relationships, and leave a comment. Thank you.

Do I Love God by Studying the Bible?

During a break in our Spiritual Gifts Workshop I got into a conversation with a young mother about loving God. We ticked off various ways: prayer, worship, meditation,. And then she mentioned Bible Study.

I drew a blank. Do we love God studying the Word?  Since we are commanded to love God with our minds as well as our hearts, I looked carefully at Psalm 119.  It’s the longest psalm, one that deals at length with our relationship to God’s word.

Nouns and Verbs: I researched the many nouns the Psalmist employed as synonyms for God’s word and counted nine, including: law, testimonies, command(s); judgments, ordinances, way(s); truth, and of course word(s). Some of the verbs used to describe our relationship to God’s word(s). are: search out, walk in ways of, seek after, keep, contemplate, meditate, follow after, pay attention to.

New Covenant Law: How do we interpret this old covenant psalm in the light of the New Covenant of Jesus?  One thing certainly applies to both covenants. Our relationship with God’s Word is both to (a) study or contemplate and (b) take action.  The former precedes, but never precludes the latter. John the apostle  made this clear: My dear children, our love should not be just in word and speech; it must be true love, which shows itself in action. (I John 3: 18)

 While believers are no longer constrained to obey Old Covenant commands, we have been given laws in the New Covenant. They are simple, but profound. In the gospels, Jesus affirmed and summarized the whole law by the two laws given through Moses: to love God with all our hearts, minds, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. At the last supper Jesus added a third, making the great commandment a kind of trinity.

Jesus’ New Law for a New Covenant: The apostle writes, Bear one another’s burdens and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal 6:2) What is this law of Christ?  Sadly, it is one ignored by the church and/or confused with the one Moses gave to love our neighbor. Christ’s third dimension of the great commandment, is his mandate to the church, “Love one another as I have loved you that the others may know you as my disciples.” (John 13:34).

 Rewards for Obedience: In his teaching on the vine and the branches, Jesus reiterates this command,  promising great rewards for keeping it, including a life of love, fruitfulness or success, joy and answered prayer. (Please read John 15: 6-12)

In Summary:  We know that without faith it is impossible to please God. We also know we show our love by obeying his commands to love our neighbor and fellow members of our church family. In the words of  the old hymn, “Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Our conclusion about Bible study is this: (a) we show our love for God by paying close attention to what the Word says but (b) only if we keep or practice it . The corollary is also true: we show lack of love for God when we study His word but fail to practice it.

Personally, I love to study the Bible. But rarely do I do so without finding areas of my life where I have failed. I need to then repent and ask for His strength to trust and obey

How to Love God

In church today we were told to love God.  But how do we do that? Maybe I Corinthians 13, the love chapter, has some advice. Well, here’s a summary of the apostle’s list of Do’s-and-Don’ts of love: 

 Love is:  patient and kind                                                                                                                                                    

Love isn’t:  jealous, boastful, proud, irritable, selfish, or rude.                                                                                                

Love doesn’t:  keep a record of wrongs or rejoice in wrongdoing                                                                                  

Love does:  rejoice when truth wins out.

But is this list about my relationship with God or others? The commentaries agree that the attributes described here deal primarily with our horizontal relationships (others) more than our vertical relationship with God.

Then we come to verse 7:   Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

So I do show my love for God by not giving up on Him and even praising Him when life turns sour.  But I also love him when I practice these things in my other relationships by remaining positive, hopeful and encouraging even when life gets rough. In fact, can’t I also show positive regard and love for myself also, by not beating up on myself when I fail?

The point is, I show my love for God directly through meditating on Him, trusting him, and by praying to Him, by my Adorations, Confessions, Thanksgivings and Supplications (ACTS). But I show my love for him also by treating and loving the others in my life as He commands.

In fact, Jesus was very clear that it isn’t our prayers or worship of God that witnesses to the world. Rather,.  Everyone will know that you are my disciples because of your love for each other.”   John 13:35

The apostle John drives that point home in his letters.  For instance: “How can I say I love God, whom I can’t see, if I don’t love my Christian family whom I can see? 1 John 4:8

OUR NEXT POST: Am I Loving God through Bible Study? 

When Tears Can Be Your Friend.

Blessed are they that mourn, feeling crushed alone and forlorn. When your heart’s broke in two, God will comfort you. Blessed are you when you mourn.

Blessed are you when you weep, there is coming a time to reap. Though you’ve sowed tears in pain, you’ll come rejoicing again. Blessed are you when you weep. (Original Song)

The fourth grade at No. 19 School had become a nightmare. I had come face to face with two terrifying realities: Miss Morris and the multiplication tables. Every morning, first thing, my new teacher had us number 1-10 down the left margin and immediately fired off the times tables: “7 x 8; 8 x 4; 9 x 7, etc. It was agony for me. My little brain never seemed to catch up or catch on.

To make matters worse, Miss Morris was, well, how can I say it? She was mean looking–a bit like the witch in the Wizard of Oz–not the pretty one. Of the many old maid teachers in our school, Miss Morris was the one most likely to remain one.

Finally judgment day came. She looked in my direction and I heard, “Wade, come up to my desk please.”

Up to then I had managed to avoid her. But now, shaking in my sneakers, I stood before my nemesis. “Wade, you are a bright boy. Why are you having so much trouble with our morning quizzes?”

To my shock and shame, a hidden dam inside me broke wide open. I dissolved in tears and blurted out, “I don’t know!” Many years later, when diagnosed with ADHD, I discovered that’s a stock answer of children and adults when questioned about their puzzling symptoms.

As it turned out, Miss Morris had a tender heart, She went out of her way to show kindness to me and I blossomed. I came to love her and I nailed those tedious times tables. Later, when my younger siblings had Miss Morris, they came home complaining about how she went on and on about “what a delight” Wade was.”

It turns out my honest display of fear, sorrow and dismay, worked to both of our benefit. “Blessed are they that mourn.”

Many, many years later, I was told by my urologist that my bladder had serious problems and I would have to have a catheter. Again, to my shock and shame, I burst into tears. It was an honest display of emotion regarding something I had dreaded. As it turned out, as is often the case, the dread is worse than the reality.

From that time on, Dr. Paletsky, not noted for his gentle bed side manner, treated me with great deference. Once, in his oral notes, he recorded that “Wade is a sensitive man.”

Later, the time came for him to remove my very cancerous prostrate, An extremely skilled surgeon, he afterwards confided to my wife that he had taken special pains to rebuild the damage done by cancer to assure I wouldn’t need a catheter. Months later, I have had absolutely no need of one.

I am grateful to a man who, much like Miss Morris, seemingly cold and gruff, but very responsive to an honest display of feelings. “Blessed are they that mourn.”

I just realized a little post script to this story. Both my benefactors are Jewish.

Christmas Quiz Answers

The purpose of this quiz is to point out how we commonly accept ideas about Jesus’ birth [as well as many other assumptions] based on traditions rather than on what the Bible plainly states.

  1. What is a manger? A: (a) stable; (b) room in a stable; (c) cattle trough; (d) crèche.
    Answer: [c] A manger is a kind of box for feeding animals, i.e. trough. There is no mention of a stable in the story. A crèche is a model or tableau of the Christ child’s birth. Where was this trough? Since an inn needs a shed to keep guest’s donkey’s, it’s quite likely Jesus was born in an early version of a garage.
  2. True or False Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus and remained so the rest of her life. Answer: False There is a doctrine, held sacred to some, that Mary died a virgin. This notion not only debases the marriage bed, which the Bible blesses, it puts an unimaginable strain on Mary, not to mention Joseph. It also portrays God as a prude. The Bible record states Mary and Joseph beget many children, evidence that they did not live together in celibacy . “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us?” (Matt 13: 55-56 ESV)
  3. True or False. The magi’s names were Caspar, Balthazar and Melchior. Answer: False. Here is Matthew’s actual account. After Jesus’ birth, wise men[ from the east arrived in Jerusalem. This verse shows how inaccurate our traditions can be. Matthew nowhere records a] the wise men’s names, b] there were three of them; c] that they arrived at his birth with the shepherds. Later Matthew does write “they entered the house and saw the child with his mother.” (v. 11) Jesus was clearly not lying in a manger.
  4. Which is not correct regarding Mary and Joseph (a) They were both of the tribe of Judah; (b) Joseph descended from David, Mary did not; (c) Mary’s ancestry was traced back to Adam. (d) Joseph’s ancestry was traced back to Abraham. (e) Joseph had a Gentile, a harlot and an adulteress in his ancestry. Answer: (b) Matthew records Joesph’s ancestry in the first chapter. We read (a) He was of the tribe of Judah, (b) descended from David; (c) traced back to Abraham; (d) Three women: Rahab, the harlot; Ruth, the Moabite Gentile and Bathsheba, David’s partner in adultery, were especially singled out. Luke gives us Mary’s ancestry in the 3rd chapter, where we read: (a) She was of the tribe of Judah; (b) like Joseph, she was descended from David; (c) her ancestry was traced back to Adam.
  5. How many magi visited baby Jesus? (a) 3 (b) No # given. Answer: (b)                                                           6. True or False. An angel visited Joseph as he did Mary saying to take her as his wife. Answer: False. He didn’t visit her as Gabriel did with Mary, an angel appeared to him in a dream.
  6. In A Christmas Carol, what is the first name of the main character? Answer: Ebenezer Scrooge
  7. True or False. Luke wrote Mary and Joseph made the journey to Bethlehem alone. Answer: False. We assume this is true from the stories and movies, but let’s examine Luke’s account. …there went out a decree… that the whole world should be taxed. And all went to be taxed, every one to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem. [Luke 2: 1-4) The writer doesn’t say they were alone. We may, in fact, assume they weren’t, since Caesar decreed the census would apply to ALL the world. This would include Joseph and Mary’s families. In another account of Luke’s, we find families traveled together. After traveling for a day, Mary and Joseph started looking for Jesus among their relatives and friends. (Luke 2:44) .                                                                        9. True or False. Of the three gospel writers, only Mark says nothing of Jesus’ origins. Answer: True Matthew emphasized the Magi; Luke the shepherds; John wrote of Jesus as the Logos or Word, who was in the beginning with God and was God and that he was made flesh. Mark begins his gospel with John the Baptist.
  8. True or False. Matthew wrote the magi worshiped Jesus while he lay in a manger. Answer: False. (See answer to question 3)

Christmas Quiz Answers

The purpose of this quiz is to point out how we commonly accept ideas about Jesus’ birth [as well as many other assumptions we make] based on traditions rather than on what the Bible plainly states.

  1. What is a manger? A: (a) stable; (b) room in a stable; (c) cattle trough; (d) crèche.
    Answer: [c] A manger is a kind of box for feeding animals, i.e. trough. There is no mention of a stable in the story. A crèche is a model or tableau of the Christ child’s birth. Where was this trough? Since an inn needs a shed to keep guest’s donkey’s, it’s quite likely Jesus was born in an early version of a garage.
  2. True or False Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus and remained so the rest of her life.     Answer: False There is a doctrine, held sacred to some, that Mary died a virgin. This notion not only debases the marriage bed, which the Bible blesses, it puts an unimaginable strain on Mary, not to mention Joseph. It also portrays God as a prude. The Bible record states Mary and Joseph beget many children, evidence that they did not live together in celibacy . “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us?  (Matt 13: 55-56 ESV)
  3. True or False. The magi’s names were Caspar, Balthazar and Melchior.  Answer: False. Here is Matthew’s actual account. After Jesus’ birth, wise men[ from the east arrived in Jerusalem. This verse shows how inaccurate our traditions can be. Matthew nowhere records a] the wise men’s (magi’s) names, b] there were three of them; c] that they arrived at his birth with the shepherds. Later Matthew does write “they entered the house and saw the child with his mother. (v. 11) Jesus was clearly not lying in a manger.
  4. Which is not correct regarding Mary and Joseph (a) They were both of the tribe of Judah; (b) Joseph descended from David, Mary did not; (c) Mary’s ancestry was traced back to Adam. (d) Joseph’s ancestry was traced back to Abraham. (e) Joseph had a Gentile, a harlot and an adulteress in his ancestry.       Answer: (b) Matthew records Joesph’s ancestry in the first chapter. We read (a) He was of the tribe of Judah, (b) descended from David; (c) traced back to Abraham; (d) Three women: Rahab, the harlot; Ruth, the Moabite Gentile and Bathsheba, David’s partner in adultery, were especially singled out. Luke gives us Mary’s ancestry in the 3rd chapter, where we read: (a) She was of the tribe of Judah; (b) like Joseph, she was descended from David; (c) her ancestry was traced back to Adam.
  5. How many magi visited baby Jesus? (a) 3 (b) No # given. Answer: (b)                                                         6.  True or False. An angel visited Joseph as he did Mary saying to take her as his wife. Answer: False. He didn’t visit her as Gabriel did with Mary, an angel appeared to him in a dream.
  6. In A Christmas Carol, what is the first name of the main character? Answer: Ebenezer Scrooge
  7. True or False. Luke wrote Mary and Joseph made the journey to Bethlehem alone. Answer: False. We assume this is true from the stories and movies, but let’s examine Luke’s account. …there went out a decree… that the whole world should be taxed. And all went to be taxed, every one to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem. [Luke 2: 1-4) Here, again, the writer doesn’t say they were alone. We may, in fact, assume they weren’t, since Caesar decreed the census would apply to ALL the world. This would include Joseph and Mary’s families. In another account of Luke’s, we find families traveled together. After traveling for a day, Mary and Joseph started looking for Jesus among their relatives and friends. (Luke  2:44)                                                            9. True or False. Of the three gospel writers, only Mark says nothing of Jesus’ origins. Answer: True Matthew emphasized the Magi; Luke the shepherds; John wrote of Jesus as the Logos or Word, who was in the beginning with God and was God and that he was made flesh. Mark begins his gospel with John the Baptist.
  8. True or False. Matthew wrote the magi worshiped Jesus while he lay in a manger. Answer: False. (See answer to question 3)

 

Christmas Quiz

CHRISTMAS QUIZ

 Hint:  The answers are from the only original record of these events, not from traditions.

  1. What is a manger? A: (a) stable; (b) room in a stable; (c) cattle trough; (d) crèche.
  2. True or False Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus and remained so the rest of her life.
  3. True or False. The magi’s names were Caspar, Balthazar and Melchior.
  4. Which is not correct regarding Mary and Joseph (a) They were both of the tribe of Judah; (b) Joseph descended from David, Mary did not; (c) Mary’s ancestry was traced back to Adam. (d) Joseph’s ancestry was traced back to Abraham. (e) Joseph had a Gentile, a harlot and an adulteress in his ancestry.
  5. How many magi visited baby Jesus, according to Matthew? (a) Three; (b) He doesn’t give a number.
  6. True or False. An angel paid a visit to Joseph to tell him to take Mary as his wife.
  7. In A Christmas Carol, what is the first name of the main character?
  8. True or False. According to Luke, Mary and Joseph made the journey to Bethlehem alone.
  9. True or False. Of the three gospel writers, only Mark says nothing of Jesus’ origins.                                                       10. True or False. According to Matthew. the magi saw and worshiped Jesus  while he lay in a manger.