Month: June 2019

Why do the nations rage?

I enjoy discovering a verse to a Christian song as I’m reading my Bible. In today’s devotional, we’ll be looking at Acts 4, and verse twenty-five is used in a favorite song of mine by the late Rich Mullens. His song, “Why do the nations rage” is truly powerful. Here’s his opening verse:

Verse:

Why do the nations rage? 
Why do they plot and scheme? 
Their bullets can’t stop the prayers we pray In the name of the Prince of Peace 
We walk in faith and remember long ago 
How they killed Him and then how on the third day He arose 
Well, things may look bad 
And things may look grim 
But all these things must pass except the things that are of Him

Now, to the action scene:

Acts 4:23-26 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

“Why do the nations rage 
         and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
            and the rulers band together
     against the Lord
            and against his anointed one.

The Church’s Prayer:

These words are parts of the Church’s prayer on the occasion of its first collision with the civil power. The Bible provides a detailed accounting of this occasion in Acts, chapters three and four. Regarding this affair, MacLaren’s Expositions states:

The incident is recorded at full length because it is the first of a long and bloody series, in order that succeeding generations might learn their true weapon and their sure defense. Prayer is the right answer to the world’s hostility, and they who only ask for courage to stand by their confession will never ask in vain.

Prayer is the first weapon, and the best weapon Christians have for dealing with confrontation. We have the armor about which Paul wrote. And we are to wear it. Even more so, the start and end of it all is prayer. The battle is not ours to win; it is God’s.

A related post can be found here: https://rockexcavationservice.org/acts-541-counted-worthy-of-suffering-disgrace-for-the-name-of-jesus/

Photo by Pedro Lima on Unsplash

Remnant

My mother was a sewer. My mother-in-law was a professional sewer. My wife is a sewer. I am not. However, one thing I have learned is that I must never discard anything that contains cloth without first giving my wife a chance to scavenge any remnants of cloth that may prove useful to her.

In Deuteronomy 28:62-63 (ESV), God says, “Whereas you were as numerous as the stars of heaven, you shall be left few in number, because you did not obey the voice of the Lord your God. And as the Lord took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the Lord will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to take possession of it.

Reading Deuteronomy, chapter 28, is tough. It’s the chapter that has all those curses God establishes against God’s chosen people if they fell back into their old ways or gave themselves to false gods and worldly ways. This is serious stuff, and it eventually came upon the Israelites because they didn’t remain vigilant in keeps God’s commandments.

The promised destruction did fall upon God’s chosen people, and they were scattered across the face of Earth. However, God always keeps a remnant of his people – “…You who were as numerous as the stars in the sky will be left but few in number…

Time after time, God’s “called” people have fallen back into sin and apostasy. Nevertheless, there are always a few that keep the Faith even in His most fierce judgment. As God said in 1 Kings 19:18, “Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” God is speaking of a remnant.

Let me ask this, do we want to be God’s remnant or God’s target? There is forgiveness for our sins through Jesus, our Savior. Even so, a time is coming for God’s wrath (i.e., anger, rage, fury) to be poured out on the world. We don’t know when that will happen, but everyone knows that there will be a day when death will call their name. Everyone has been given a binary choice, serve Jesus, or serve the world; there are no other options.

A remnant or a target, that’s the question; we need to choose wisely.

Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

Good Chains

We read the following appeal from Paul in a letter he wrote, now called Romans. In Romans 15:30 (ESV), Paul says, “I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf,

Paul needed brothers and sisters in the faith to pray for him. There is now, and always has been, a critical place in local fellowships for “prayer chains.” Before there were Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and email, there were telephones and “over the fences.”

Your child has a spider bite, call the prayer chain. Your spouse just lost their job. Call the prayer chain. A family in town has lost their house in a fire. You guessed it. My wife and I have been on both ends of this for decades. We have been members of prayer chains and, many times, we have called prayer chains. A prayer chain is part of the life of a local community of believers.

I will give you two personal testimonies about the efficacy of communal prayer.

1. Several years after our first child was born, we began trying for a second child. It seemed that perhaps a second child wasn’t in our future. At that time, the only option was adoption, and we didn’t have the income to do that. So, one day, when my wife was at church, she shared our problem with the ladies that were there. They all gathered around her, and fervently prayed. Our daughter is now grown and has given us several grandkids. God doesn’t always move this way, but we should agree together in prayer because God expects us to, and He deeply loves us.

2. The prayer team at our local church felt called to do a 24 prayer vigil. All of the prayer team and many others joined in. My wife and I volunteered for the midnight shift. She knelt at a pew in the back of the church, and I chose to kneel at the front of our church. We prayed through the list that we’d been given and proceeded to pray for others that we knew needed God’s hand in their lives. At some point during each of our prayer times, my wife felt a deep conviction from God, and I also had a similar experience. When we “compared notes,” God and separately spoken to us that His intent was for us to move across the country, to the west coast; at that time we lived on the east coast. We did as God directed and God richly blessed that time in our lives.

Paul has given us a clear example of the need for a group of Christians that believe God answers prayer and are ready, willing, and able to passionately agree in prayer for the needs of people, institutions, and nations.

Being a member of a prayer chain is a ministry that God has used countless times to rescue untold people, local churches, and even nations. If there is a prayer chain in your church, prayerfully consider joining. If one doesn’t exist, maybe you are just the person God wants to use to launch that ministry.

Photo by Zulmaury Saavedra on Unsplash

New Address, Same Service!

After a lot of soul-searching, I decided to move “Rock Excavation Service” to a new host. WordPress.com has been a good hosting provider but it’s time to move. So, after today, new posts will be on rockexcavationservice.org.

Because I left WordPress.com, I had to get a new domain name. So, I moved this site, and all of its content to a new host plus I have a new domain name: rockexcavationservice.org. And, the site is live!

Sorry, but I couldn’t give up on “Rock Excavation Service”. I kind of like it but NO ONE can ever remember it. Anyway, I’ll keep this WordPress.com site up with its content for awhile.

Please take a minute to head over to rockexcavationservice.org. It loads faster, works better on mobile devices, and it enables me to do new formatting styles.

Pregnant With Change

June 7, 2019 – A volcano in the far eastern end of Russia that was thought to be extinct may now have awakened — and its eruption could be as severe as the one that destroyed the ancient Roman settlement of Pompeii, according to scientists. – https://globalnews.ca/news/5367331/volcano-awakens-eruption-pompeii/

Volcano’s are intriguing for many reasons, primarily because scientists are so often wrong about them. When Mount St. Helens erupted, it killed one of the scientists that was thought to be a safe distance away. Just a few days ago a volcano thought to be extinct has begun showing signs of an impending eruption.

The reason volcanos are so difficult to predict is that all the work taking place is usually so far underground it’s nearly impossible for us to know what’s happening. Only as the earth’s massive energy begins to reach the surface do we become aware that a volcanic explosion is likely. Even then, we aren’t sure when or if, or to what extent, the volcano will erupt.

There are similarities between volcanic activity and prayer. After we pray, there is often a time when we see nothing happening; this means things are pregnant with change. What is real is first manifested in the Spirit, and then they play out in what we can see, sometimes accompanied by thunder! (1 Samuel 7:10, John 12:29)

The following are two passages in Luke when Peter, James, and John became sleepy while Jesus prayed. Let that sink in. The Son of God was visible to them. They could watch and hear Jesus pray, yet their flesh overcame them, they become sleepy and didn’t fully engage in praying with Jesus.

Luke 9:32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.
Luke 45,46, When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

Please understand, I know I wouldn’t have done a better job than these three fellows. I’m sleepy even as I write this. My point is simple. The most significant power God has afforded us is to ask of Him and hear from Him. The appearance, often, is that nothing is happening, it may seem tedious, and we get sleepy. But, God is mighty, and He answers the petitions of His saints.

Once we’ve prayed, we should be as expectant parents-to-be. Every little thing should be considered. That pain, was it a contraction? Does it look like the baby’s dropped? That’s the kind of hope we should have once we’ve “prayed through.” Those are exciting times that change lives for God does answer our prayers.

Photo by Yosh Ginsu on Unsplash

Eyewitness News

Several years ago the HuffPost ran an article titled, “Is the Bible Literally True? No, of Course Not!”, written by Dr. Steve McSwain. (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/biblical-literalism_b_4966852).

It is heartbreaking to read Dr. Steve McSwain’s article, where he tries to reconcile his disbelief in the veracity of the Bible while still claim that there is value in it. That’s like stating the November 23rd, 1963 report in “The Dallas Morning News” of President Kennedy’s assassination is worth reading but should it be taken literally true? No, of course not!”

The Apostle’s were eyewitnesses to the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and the subsequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Please read the following excerpts from the first chapter of Acts.
Acts 1:22b (NIV), “For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

Acts 1:12-13 (NIV), “Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying.

Acts 2:6-11 (NIV),When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs.

Acts 2:32 (NIV), “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.”

In each of these passages, it is evident that from the very beginning of the Church, it was essential to keep things real, to use eyewitnesses, and to provide details that witnesses naturally include in their accounts. As examples, we have reports of “a Sabbath day’s walk,” “parts of Libya near Cyrene, visitors from Rome and both Jews and converts to Judaism,” and “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.”

As Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:6 (ESV), “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

You believe President Kennedy was assassinated, yet you weren’t there. The films from that event may be helpful, but they certainly aren’t conclusive.  No, you didn’t witness the assassination, yet you believe because you have read first-hand accounts as well as testimonies from trustworthy people.

The Bible is far more trustworthy than the “Dallas Morning News”, in part, because there are more eyewitnesses, more trustworthy people, distributed across a much more extended period of time, all of whom attest to the same thing: God is real, Jesus did what the Bible says, the Holy Spirit has been poured out, as promised, for believers.

Here’s my thought for today. If I have no anxiety in saying to anyone, in any social setting, that President Kennedy was assassinated shouldn’t I be the same way with the ministry, miracles, and mediation of Jesus?

There are too many voices in our society that say, without apology, “Is the Bible Literally True? No, of Course Not!” We need more voices in our society that state, without apology, “Faith in Jesus is the only way for anyone to end up in heaven.”

Photo by History in HD on Unsplash

When they had sung a hymn

There is a small lesson I’d like to share with you. It amazes me how little things in life can craft our most meaningful moments and alter our lives. Society tells us we must do things on a grand scale, go big or go home, and to seek life-altering extravaganzas to create life-affirming experiences – they rarely do.

A few meaningful moments with a family member, friend, or even a passing stranger can often teach us more than the big events in life. For example, my son, daughter-in-law, and I took a selfie a couple of years ago when I traveled to their home for a visit. That selfie captured a special moment that will live with me forever.

Just such a small piece of family history is what I want to share with you today. Growing up with Godly parents was a real blessing. So, to my joy, while reading God’s Word today, a little jewel plopped out. The verse related to a childhood memory I had recently shared with my wife .

My wife and I were talking about the Bible and something triggered a memory. I remembered something my Mother said after every, and I do mean every, communion service. She wasn’t a Bible teacher like my Dad, but she sure knew the “where and why” for her beliefs. Anyway, the Scripture I read this morning was Mark 14:26. It’s about the Lord’s Supper, and it states, “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”

That verse made an indelible mark on Mom. She always was frustrated with the way most communion services were performed. The church (small “c”) would typically throw communion somewhere into its standard service; the beginning, middle or end; it didn’t seem to matter. That riled Mom.

After the service, she would be sure to tell us how communion was supposed to be performed. She would say, “You share communion, sing a (i.e., one) hymn and leave – no chatting in the sanctuary. That’s just how it’s supposed to be done; that’s how Jesus did it.”

She was correct, as we just read in Mark 14:26. When I read that verse today, I could hear her voice, see her face, feel her conviction. Mom has been gone for quite a while, so this morning’s verse sure felt good.

You know, I remembered her lesson and still believe it. That’s the power of small things from human lives. We each have these opportunities nearly every day. Let’s not overlook them while we’re looking for the “big thing.”

Photo by Michael Maasen on Unsplash

Coup D’ état

I have chronic pain so, for fun, I Googled “top 10 worst pains”. I won’t go through the list but one pain on this list I’d never heard of is a “spinal headache.” Just the thought of that makes me hurt.

So, being on such a fun scavenger hunt, I Googled “top Bible verses.” Did you know there’s a top 100 Bible verses list*? And, of course, there is a top 50 list, a top 10 list and so on. Who are these people that have nothing better to do than compile these lists? I’m old, sick, and retired, and I don’t have time to make these lists!

Anyway, while scanning through this top 100 list, I noticed that verses from the book of Romans showed up quite often. That had me worried about today’s devotional. Diving further in, I discovered that the twelfth chapter of Romans showed up twice in this list. Now I was getting nervous. Thankfully, those verses are Romans 12:1 and Romans 12:2. Whew, we’re looking at Romans 12:21 today. You’ve probably not read that one. 😉

Romans 12:21 (ESV): Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Being on a roll, I looked at over a dozen Bible translations and paraphrases and all of the ones I checked used the words “evil” and “good.” Digging a bit deeper, I checked the definitions the salient words of this verse.

Overcome means succeed in dealing with (a problem or difficulty) – defeat (an opponent); prevail. – (of an emotion) overpower or overwhelm.
Evil means morally bad – causing harm or injury to someone – profoundly immoral and malevolent.
Good means that which is morally right; righteousness. – well – of high quality – correct or proper.

This verse is thrilling! We, as Christians, have been given a mandate, a commissioning, to overcome evil with good. We are to instigate a coup d’ état against evil.

Now, coup d’ état means “a blow against the state” and satan is the prince of this world (John 14:30) so through using “good” we can strike a blow against the prince of this world. We can overcome satan’s power by the power of God. We know this because Jesus said in Luke 18:19 (ESV), “…No one is good except God alone.”

So, we succeed in defeating, overpowering, overwhelming things that cause harm or injury to someone or are immoral or malevolent (i.e., evil) by doing morally right things, by righteousness, things that are well, of high quality, that are correct or proper (i.e., good).

The picture I see when I read this short verse is this: When a CO2 fire extinguisher is used to put out a fire, the CO2 replaces the oxygen that fuels the flame. CO2 starves the chemical combustion (i.e., fire) by replacing the oxygen, which is its fuel. Likewise, good starves evil by replacing the morally evil things, the things that cause harm, that are immoral things with morally right things, correct things, proper things, that are of high quality, thereby starving the evil until it is extinguished.

God’s Word is so fantastic. Even an eleven-word verse can profoundly change how we live.

See. Measure. Repeat.

We understand that God created nature and much of nature is quantifiable. And, we, as Christians understand and typically work within the natural laws which God created, but we are not naturalists. We understand there are laws of physics; laws that God created. However, we also understand that God is sovereign. God is no more bound to the laws of nature than our Federal government is bound by the laws of a city.

Our journey within the Spirit requires the supernatural act of regeneration. That’s not an allegory, it really happens. Jesus said, You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.” (John 3:7) This requires us to believe in something beyond naturalism; it requires supernaturalism.

When a person dies their body decays so naturalism says that the entire physical result of death is decomposition. But science can’t measure what happens after death. And, because they can’t “see, measure, repeat” what happens they declare that death is the end of it. Amazingly, these same scientists embrace all matter of foolish ideas with no consideration that, perhaps, they should look into Jesus with that same openness. If only they would read and believe John 1:1-3, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

When we receive Jesus our lives are no longer limited to only “see, measure, repeat” but our lives also include “ask”, “seek” and “knock” (Matthew 7:7). We are supernaturalists and in Jesus, we are not limited to the natural course of the world. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to tell each of us, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 ESV)

Therefore, let’s face each day with peace, confidence, and humility for there is no life better than to be known by Jesus.

Photo by Kenny Luo on Unsplash

Family

Babies, toddlers, teenager, millennials, Gen X’ers, Baby Boomers, and the Greatest Generation. People from all of these categories, and more, inundate my in-laws home at least once a year for a family get-together.

I enjoy these family get-togethers but I especially enjoy quiet times with my in-laws. Just recently, my wife and I were visiting her parents. Their authentic Christian lives have been an encouragement to me for many years. I almost always learn something from my father-in-law each time we visit.

Someday, my father-in-law will take up his residence in heaven. That will be a glorious day for him, but a sad day for so many of us. Thankfully, I will always have my Heavenly Father for the Bible says in Romans 8:15: The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

Now, this world is full of religions, with some claiming to be Christian. To be sure, there are aspects of Christianity that are pure religion. In James 1:27 it says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” And, yes, there are “do’s” and “don’t” in the Bible (1 Co 11:24 …this do in remembrance of me. 1 Jn 2:15 Love not the world…) but those are not religious rhetoric. They are about teaching an adopted child how to live in God’s Family. For, you can see from Romans 8:15 that I am an adopted child of God.

Yes, my parents’ histories are full of wild characters, yet even more so is my Father’s Family. I’ve read about an old prophet in my Father’s Family history that was thrown into a den of lions (Daniel), a young, insecure man that stood up and fought an army (Gideon) and, of course, One Man that died and rose again to secure salvation for all who accept Him (Jesus). I’ve got kings and princesses, farmers and tent makers in my Father’s Family.

When I am reading the Bible, I’m learning about my Family; often they are things about which only families care. I’ve read about Ruth sleeping at the feet of Boaz, Princess Esther daring to enter the king’s inner court without an invitation, the prophet Jeremiah being thrown into a well and living to tell about it, and so many more tidbits of Family history.

As I study my Bible, I am learning about my everlasting Family. And, as I read, these Family members seem to gather around me (Hebrews 12:1), rejoicing in God as the Holy Spirit helps me discover how Jesus is woven within it all. I’m slowly learning to live as an adopted son of my Father.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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