Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pray On by Carolyn

On my way home from church on Sunday I began thinking about my husband, two sons and their wives who are not yet believers in Jesus. I wondered how long it would take. I wondered if it would be soon, or even if I would live to see any of them bow the knee in recognition of their sin, and their Savior and Lord.

How long have I prayed for their salvation? I have prayed for them since my own conversion thirteen years ago. And yet, nothing changes. Nothing happens. It can be very discouraging. I thought of a story I heard about a missionary whose ministry, years ago, had taken him to an island in the Pacific. For twenty-five years he preached and after all that time he had not one convert. I don't know the details, but I do know God didn't ask him to convert anyone. He just asked him to preach.

Jesus says in Mark 16:15-16, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whover believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned...then the disciples went out and preached everywhere." Again in Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus says, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

From these verses of Scripture I see two things: Christians are to preach the gospel and we are to baptize those who are made disciples in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But we cannot convert them. This inward experience is the work of the Holy Spirit. We can publicly baptize which is an OUTWARD experience of the INWARD work of God.

1Corinthians 12:13 and Acts 2:38 describe the inward experience of baptism by the Holy Spirit. This is often referred to as being "born again" by the entrance of the Holy Spirit into the heart of a new believer. This is how the believer is "sealed" forever with God's own name as Paul explains in Ephesians 1:13.

What am I to do? "Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husband so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives....Do what is right and do not give way to fear." 1 Peter 3-1, 6b. Live the gospel. Be obedient to it. Teach it and preach it when I can. Trust that He will strengthen me to do the work He has given me to do. And pray.

Just before I reached home a song by Babby Mason came on the radio. It was such an encouragment; divine encouragement! Here is part of it.

"When your questions go unanswered and your prayers may seem in vain,
They don't seem to make a difference, they don't seem to make a change,
Just rest assured God knows your needs, And He hears each time you pray
Your prayers are reaching Heaven and the answer's on its way.
Pray on, for you are who the Lord is looking for;

Pray on, tear the mighty strongholds down,
Stay on your knees for this is where the battle is won,
There's no better place for you to be,
Than seeking the Father prayerfully,
Very soon you'll win the victory, pray on."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Love in Unexpected Places (by Judy)

Today our middle school Farmhands prepared a nearby barn for the arrival of our sheep, some piglets and a small puppy who will grow up to be a sheepherder. It was a beautiful day, but the outside warmth and sun did not reach far into the 19th century building. Except for a few diffused rays, it was dark, dank and chilly. To add to the inner chill, the carcass of a raccoon was leaning against one of the many musty bales of hay that a long-ago farmer left behind.

As we used a crow bar to pry open doors with rusted hinges, the November sunshine began to penetrate a space darkened for the last 40 years. Millions of bits of dust, straw and webby powder filtered through the air as the students, released from the prison of classroom walls, romped around, acting like the preschoolers they once were.

I stood by quietly, watching, smiling at the ruckus, imagining what livestock filled the barn over its history. Suddenly a flash of red caught my eye. I leaned over, and saw an amazing sight hidden down low, partially obscured by mounds of bird droppings – an old Coke can, with an unabashedly flaming crimson heart. Immediately an old Barbra Streisand song went through my mind - “Love Comes from Unexpected Places.”

How true that is – whether it is human love, or the agape love of God. God finds us in the most unlikely places and offers His unconditional love, wrapped in forgiveness, mercy, compassion and grace. It is rarely happens when we are looking our best, dressed in finery and success. Most often He stoops to woo us, a "friend in low places" - dusty, bleak, chilled, and obscured by waste. In the glow of our own self-glory, we miss His Light. In the shadows, His radiant love seeps into the emptiness of our souls.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Agora - Then and Now (by Judy)

I have always loved the concept of the “agora” in ancient times. Long before I started reading the Bible, I learned that people met in the agora of their town - that it was a place where the community gathered, where commodities were bought and sold in arcades and shops, where children played, housewives shared gossip, politicians gave speeches, ideas were exchanged, and life ebbed and flowed.

Then when I began studying the New Testament, I learned that people first heard in the agoras about a man who performed miracles of healing, who taught wisdom through parables, who cleansed them of their sins, and spoke about his Father in heaven. Later his followers made their way to the agora where they talked about their resurrected Christ and debated matters of their faith with skeptics. One of my favorite stories about Paul takes place at the agora in Athens were he reasoned with the Stoics and Epicurians, acknowledged their statue to an unknown God, and then spoke with passion and compassion about his God.

These thoughts are with me today because last week I was in New York. One day I met my sister-in-law at a favorite restaurant from childhood, the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station. As I entered that magnificent building, built in 1913 in the Beaux Arts style, I looked around and wondered. There is a huge marble staircase, long glass windows letting in amazing light, and an azure ceiling adorned with constellations. But the building paled in comparison with the people – some rushing to catch trains, some waiting to meet friends, some dining in fabulous eateries or shopping in a wondrous food market, others, many others standing around and talking – a modern day agora for sure.

How I pray that we always have our agoras – that we refuse to let the media dictate what we believe from afar. May we always exchange ideas in public, sharing, proclaiming, exclaiming, reclaiming logic, reason, freedom of speech and thought. May we stand tall against the talking heads of radio, TV, print news and the internet with their own agendas. May we remember that even our God in Isaiah said, "Come now, let us reason together."