Don’t Lose Heart—Pray!

Psalm 1:21, 2nd Timothy 3:10-17, Luke 18:1-8

The texts this morning are from the Lectionary  However, in the bulletin, I have altered the epistle lesson, adding verses to the beginning, and taking verses from the end.  The verses I added at the beginning of the epistle lesson, bring out the apostle’s persecutions and sufferings. The text I deleted from the end of the epistle lesson, remove the apostle’s charge to his young friend Timothy to “preach the word.”

Ironically, the part of the text I deleted is very important to me. On July 21, 1973, my 24th birthday, Elayne and I were sitting at breakfast in our townhouse at Azalea Gardens in Jacksonville, N.C.  I had recently recommitted my life to Christ, and I was seeking God’s will.  As we ate breakfast, I opened the Daily Text, and read the New Testament text. It was 2nd Timothy 4:2:

Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching.

I put down the text book, looked at Elayne and said, “Elayne, I am going into the ministry.”  Continue reading

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Walking with God in Time of Crisis and Beyond

Psalm 66 is the history of an individual believer as he or she walks with God though a time of crisis and beyond. It is one of those texts in which Scripture vindicates itself, and lays its claim upon the reader. The Psalm is not less than 2500 years old, yet it is so timeless that, with just a few modifications, it could have been written by any 21st century believer calling upon God in a time of trouble.  What the psalmist did; we do; let’s take a look. Continue reading

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Missing the Mark, Improving the Aim

According to the marginal notes, Psalm 51 is a Psalm of David when the prophet Nathan came to him after he had gone in to Bathsheba.  You know the story. Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah the Hittite, whom David took for himself, after seeing her taking a bath on the roof of her house. He failed to practice what St. Francis called, “Stewardship of the eyes,” and one sin led to another.  When Bathsheba got pregnant, and David could not coax her husband, Uriah, to sleep with her—because his troops were still on the field of battle; David had Uriah sent to the forefront of the battle against the Ammonites that he might cover up his sin, and have Bathsheba for himself.

In verse 3 David writes, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.”

David made this confession not just because he had a bad conscience; but because Nathan the prophet confronted him, exposed his sin, and predicted all the misery that would come upon him because of it. Poor David. He started strong, and he was a man after God’s own heart, but he knew his share of self-induced tragedy.

In the Bible sin takes several forms: Continue reading

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Can We Get a Second Opinion?

Luke 14:25-33

25 Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them,  26 “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.  27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.  28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?  29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him,  30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’  31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand?  32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace.  33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

There are many hard texts in the Bible that send us to a commentary, looking for a second opinion, quicker than you can say, “Methuselah.” This particular passage contains not one such text, but four of them.
Continue reading

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Remembering the Prisoner

According to William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, the book of Hebrews  was written between two periods of persecution. The first persecution was undoubtedly the persecution by Nero which began in A.D. 64.  The second persecution was undoubtedly the persecution by Domitian which began in A.D. 85. Barclay says that we know this because it is clear from internal evidence that, at one time the leaders of the congregation had died for their faith. And it is clear from internal evidence that though members of the congregation itself had suffered, they had not yet suffered to the point of shedding their own blood. Never-the-less, at least some of them had already been put into prison, and/or suffered ill treatment and torture. No doubt every member of the congregation knew someone who was a prisoner; and every member of the congregation knew that—prison and torture was a very real possibility for themselves.

Therefore when the  author of the Hebrews found a ready and sympathetic audience when he exhorted his readers to:

Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; (and) those who are being tortured, as though you were being tortured.

No doubt many people to first read and hear the Epistle to the Hebrews did go on to suffer prison and torture. Continue reading

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