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Archive for December, 2011

This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

I am continually using things for purposes other than what they were designed. Hammering a nail with half a brick, cleaning my ears with any sharp object, or my personal favorite — driving my vehicle backwards and slamming on the brakes in order to close the passenger side door or empty the truck bed. It’s no wonder why I have bruised thumbs, infected ears, and dented doors.

Having a Bad Day?

If you are having a bad day, then there is a good chance you’re not using it for what it was intended. Have you ever stopped to consider that God made this day and that He designed it for a very specific purpose? Well He did; and you know what else? He designed you in the same fashion. This day, you, and everything else for that matter, were made by God and for His purpose. Don’t believe it? Check out this verse:

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. Colossians 1:16

So the likelihood of your having a rotten day is magnified if you are working outside of the will of the One who created it. How can any person possibly feel fulfilled if they are striving to please themselves and not the Creator? Show me an individual who only recognizes God as Creator for one hour on Sunday morning and I will show you a despondent and confused person. Fulfilled Christians are those who are seeking to fulfill the will of Christ Jesus.

Consult Your Owner’s Manual

I once ruined a transmission because I towed a camper that was beyond what the vehicle was capable of pulling. I’d like to say that I didn’t read the owners manual, but the sad truth is that I did read it — I just chose to ignore the instruction that it provided.

The Bible tells us all things, including mankind, were made by Christ Jesus and because our Lord is so loving, so faithful, and so providing, that He gave us an owner’s manual, His Word, the Bible. It stands to reason that if we are not running well; if we are hesitating, stalling, or just stuck in park on the side of the road, then we are not following the instruction He has supplied. Smooth performance comes as a result of operating within the Makers mandated (not recommended) specifications.

By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

We are blessed by God not for our pleasure, but for His.

  1. Are you depressed?
  2. Have you identified the root causes?
  3. Is Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior?
  4. What have you done today to satisfy His will?

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His work is honorable and glorious, And His righteousness endures forever. He has made His wonderful works to be remembered…He has declared to His people the power of His works, In giving them the heritage of the nations…He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever: Holy and awesome is His name. Psalms 111:3-4a, 6, 9

I’ve always been a snoop. I’m not proud. I suppose it’s just one more aspect of my sin-nature in which I was (am) proficient. When I was a kid for example, I’d stay home sick from (of) school and go through the house top to bottom just looking for interesting stuff to get into. I cannot begin to tell you of all the discoveries I made – some wonderful and some dreadful.

Anyway, one of the more fascinating times involved finding my dad’s scrapbook from when he was in high school. The very first entry was a May 12, 1940 Asbury Park Press Newspaper clipping recounting his baseball team’s state conference loss – their third straight. However, in that same game my dad hit a home run. The account read:

Russ Wells led off the fourth inning and tied the score for Asbury Park by parking one of Horvath’s fastballs in Deal Lake. It was a tremendous drive that carried into deep left center field and even if it hadn’t gone into the lake would have been a round tripper.

The lake must have been pretty far away because on the next page there was a May 9, 1940 account of another game where my dad hit an inside the park home run that didn’t reach the lake, but was so far out in left field he practically walked around all four bases.

Here’s an aerial shot of the Asbury Park High School as it looks today. By my rough estimate the map scale puts dead left field at about 400 feet.

Cool.

Years went by and I had essentially forgotten the story, when in a bar (I think) I heard a tale of when Babe Ruth had come to Asbury Park High School for some kind of exhibition baseball game and he hit a home run into Deal Lake on the same field my dad did. The person telling the story summed up with,

Nobody had ever hit a baseball into Deal Lake before and nobody has ever done it since.

Of course I chimed in with my fuzzy account of the 1940 newspaper clipping I had allegedly seen as a lad, but nobody believed that my dad had achieved such an inconceivable feat. I actually began to wonder myself.

Yesterday, while going through some of my dad’s things, I stumbled upon the old scrapbook and wouldn’t you know it, there were the articles, just as I remembered. Now all I needed to do was to verify the legendary saloon narrative I had heard years before. Searching the internet I soon found a couple of resources that helped solve the mystery.

According to two books: ‘The Big Bam: the life and times of Babe Ruth,’ by Leigh Montville and ‘Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig,’ by Jonathan Eig, the year was 1927 and Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were playing exhibition baseball games across the country. On this particular day in Asbury Park, they were playing the Royal Giants, a Negro League team. The game was bizarre in that spectators were continually streaming onto the field to acquire autographs from Ruth and Gehrig and to steal the baseballs as they were batted into play. Three dozen baseballs were brought to the game by the promoter and the game was called in the sixth inning when Lou Gehrig (not Babe Ruth) blasted the 36th (and last) ball into Deal Lake for a home run.

After a prolonged search, I could find no reference to this being the only home run to ever land in Deal Lake. At the end of my research, the only two facts I could confirm is that my dad, Russell Van Kirk Wells Jr. and Lou Gehrig both hit home runs into Deal Lake from the same baseball field at the Asbury Park High School, thirteen years apart.

What if…

Imagine for a moment if someone had come along, before the birth of these two great men and predicted the time and location of those events. The likelihood of that having happened would be like one in a gazillion, right? Oh well, even without a prediction or the verification of all the details, it’s still a nice fact-based memory to cling to. It just makes me grateful that God took the time and effort to authenticate all His facts, through fulfilled prophesies and documentation, so there would be absolutely no doubt as to who Jesus is, what He had accomplished, and what He continues to do.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

Amazingly, the Bible records over three hundred and sixty prophecies that pertain directly to Jesus Christ and so far Jesus has fulfilled over three hundred of them. In ‘The Case for Christ,’ the author Lee Strobel, (quoting mathematician Peter W. Stoner), reports that the odds of fulfilling just eight of the three hundred would be astronomical; the equivalent being one chance in one hundred, million, billion (that’s a one with seventeen zeroes after it). The odds for fulfilling forty-eight prophecies jump to a whopping 1 in 10 to the 157th power.

To help visualize the probability of one person fulfilling eight prophesies, Professor Stoner imagined secreting a marked coin in a pile of silver dollars two feet deep and covering the entire state of Texas. The odds would be likened to selecting the marked silver dollar on the very first try.

If we want an illustration for the odds of one person fulfilling forty-eight prophecies, Professor Stoner maintains that the silver dollar is now too large to make such a comparison; we would need to use electrons. Envision five hundred solid balls of electrons extending in all directions from the earth to the distance of 6 billion light years. Now put a check on one single electron and find it on the first attempt.

When we contend with these prophetic odds, appreciating that no fulfilled Bible prophesy has ever been successfully disaffirmed, we can logically accept the details as facts. The reality is that Christ fulfilled the predictions of His own birth, the place of His nativity, the time and manner of His death, the reactions of the people, the piercing of His side, His burial, His Resurrection, plus three hundred more. No proof has ever been proffered to dispute any of these claims. In fact, and according to all probability research, it would be impossible for anyone but God to accomplish this extraordinary accomplishment.

“The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Luke 18:27

Did my dad do what no other man, other than Lou Gehrig, had ever done? I’m thinking probably not – the facts just don’t substantiate that claim. But on the other hand, did Jesus fulfill the three hundred plus things that were prophesied about Him?

Without a doubt He did.

Will He fulfill them all?

Without a doubt He will.

Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Matthew 24:40-44
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The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction. My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother; For they will be a graceful ornament on your head, And chains about your neck. Proverbs 1:7-9

The year I believe was 1965 and the place was the Fireman’s Fair in Long Branch, New Jersey. The fairgrounds were located near the beach, behind the West End Firehouse on a few acres of land where a tiny strip mall now sits. I was probably about 7 years old. I recall the noise and excitement amid the dozens of extravagantly lit, red and white striped tents that sheltered food stands, clackity carnival wheels, and other assorted games of chance. To my silent displeasure dad ignored most of the canvas commotion; we went to the fair for the rides and maybe, if we were good, a cotton candy – in my family we rarely questioned my father’s decisions. However on this occasion, as we walked past a ring-toss game and the gigantic stuffed animals, I chanced it and asked dad if I could give it a try.

As I expected, dad said no, sternly citing that winning was a near impossible feat to pull-off.

I persisted.

Dad, I know, but I can do it. Please?”

Mom stood by nervously knowing precisely where this exchange was headed as dad repeated his veto, but I knew dad was wrong this time and so again I rolled the dice.

“Please?”

What happened next was pretty ugly, even by 1960 standards, but incredibly dad yielded and plopped down the quarter (I believe) for the bucket of twenty or so, small, red rubber rings. Grabbing the first, I confidently tossed it towards the cases of empty Coke bottles, absolutely positive I would get a ringer on the first throw.

I didn’t.

Twenty more times that stupid ring bounced in every conceivable direction except the one that would have won me a prize. I couldn’t believe it. Surely after twenty attempts, one should have accidently fallen into place. Too embarrassed to look at dad, I stared in total astonishment at the bottles just shaking my crew-cutted, seven year-old, little head.

Dad tried to spare me this indignity the best way he could, but I was relentless. While I accepted the fact that he was more knowledgeable, I believed given an opportunity, I would succeed; I would master what my wise father could not. Alone, I could find satisfaction. Dad lovingly warned and I selfishly ignored.

Our Father Lovingly Warns

And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore. Thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men… 1 Kings 4:29-31a
Solomon was a Godly man and the wisest on the face of the planet; that is until he neglected God’s counsel and began his private quest for all things worldly. He soon discovered that a thousand women were insufficient. Godless wisdom and knowledge were of no value (Ecc. 1:16). Diverse amusements, pleasures, and alcohol were inadequate (Ecc. 2:1-3). Increased wealth and elaborate hobbies brought little comfort (Ecc. 2:4-6). Pampering himself and lavishly entertaining was futile (Ecc. 2:7-8). Even pouring into his career left him unsatisfied (Ecc. 2:10).

In the end this was Solomon’s assessment:

I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind. Ecclesiastes 2:17

Using Solomon as the ultimate example, God graciously warns the rest of us that if the wisest and richest man who ever lived; the best of the best (aside from Jesus) couldn’t do it, neither can we.

We know these things to be true, but yet there seems to linger inside every one of us the notion that given the chance, we could do it better than Solomon or Trump or Gates. God is saying without any equivocation, no we cannot. Without Jesus Christ, no human being can ever be complete or entirely satisfied. Solomon, the poster-boy of worldly achievement tried and failed and in the end he hated it all.

Do I think I can do better than Solomon?

Do I think I can do better than Jesus?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones…My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; For whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:5-8, 11-12
It’s truly time to accept the fact that Father knows best and it’s our best move to take Jesus at His word.  Oh, He will allow us to try life as a solo-man, but in the end, like Solomon, we will fail.  Like my dad, God would like to spare us that indignity — His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

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Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life… Philippians 2:14-15
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I am not very fond of sponges — essentially they gross me out. There they sit in all their moistness at the bottom of the sink, seeping toxicity. The problem with the damp-sponge is you never know what ungodly thing it last sopped-up and the only way to make that determination is to squeeze the wretched thing and see what comes out. It’s my testimony that nothing good has ever come out of a damp sponge.

The sad irony is that the sponge and I have much in common.

Example:

I’ll be cruising down the road in my little red pick-up truck, singing along to my local Christian radio station, when some doophus texting his life away on a cell phone cuts me off. Instantly I react. There’s no time to prepare, no time to pray, no time to pause and consider what Jesus would do. Often what pours out of my heart in these moments would offend the vilest of sponges.

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Matthew 12:34b

And I am Elated!

Well to say I am elated is a slight exaggeration, but I am pleased for one very important reason — I had previously prayed the Lord would reveal my true heart to me so that I might be changed and He has answered the prayer. Like the miserable sponge that I am, God has lifted me up, wrung me out, and revealed the venom inside…just as I asked Him to. Now all that’s left to do is clean up the mess — God is not mocked.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.” Jeremiah 17:9-10

I am happy to say that today, these contemptible events happen with less frequency as I age, but I do long for the day when they are the rarest of occurrences. In these last days I’ve learned a couple of things that have helped me considerably.

I pray more and I pray more specifically. When I get in the car, I thank the Lord for His provision and protection. I pray for preparedness, that in these ugly situations I’d be equipped to respond appropriately and in a manner that is pleasing to Him, reminding myself that I am His ambassador. As a result I discovered that God talks! Now each time I’m confronted with one of these incidents, I clearly hear the solution. I’m experiencing the truth that the Apostle Paul wrote about in this 1 Corinthians passage:

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Who Makes the Way of Escape?

God does!

I believe when we willingly make prayer a more consistent habit, God removes the barriers that prevent us from hearing Him more plainly. If it’s true (and it is) that God will not allow Christians to be tempted beyond what we’re able, but always makes the way of escape, then all that’s left for the believer to do is to prayerfully maintain a clear path by which His blessings may flow.

A quick confession…

While it’s true that I pray more and I hear God better, I still occasionally react sinfully. Why? Because every once in a while I quench the work that the Holy Spirit wants to do and I choose to operate in my own flesh. I only say that to remind you and myself that while I’m getting better, I’m not quite there yet, and it would appear I have a long way to go.

Questions:

  • What comes out of you when you’re squeezed?
  • What can you do differently?
  • What can God do for you?
  • Do you believe?

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I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2

I love this song.

As far as contemporary Christian, Christmas songs go, this could very well be my favorite.  What I have done here is taken the liberty of pulling out the chorus for a moment so we might first examine the stanza.

How Many Kings

Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe, after all we’ve projected,
A child in a manger?

Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother’s shawl –
Just a child –
Is this who we’ve waited for?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior
All that we have, whether costly or meek
Because we believe.

Gold for his honor, and frankincense for his pleasure
And myrrh for the cross he will suffer
Do you believe?

What a wonderfully prophesied, significantly acute lyric. After all we have sought, assumed, and predicted; the Father shows up and does exceedingly abundantly more…with less…and in a word, we are astonished.

“Is this Who we’ve waited for?

We answer the first of the six questions with a booming proclamation,

Yes! Without any doubt, this is our Messiah!

And as the affirmation pours out from our hearts; as His Spirit bears witness with our spirit (Romans 8:16), it’s understood by all believers that this is more than just an emotional, religious gesture — we know how this story ends! Therefore, whatever our all looks like, He is worthy to receive it.

Five More Questions

  1. How many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
  2. How many lords have abandoned their homes?
  3. How many greats have become the least for me?
  4. How many Gods have poured out their hearts to romance a world that has torn all apart?
  5. How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

I find it intriguing that six questions are posed and that the Solution to the mystery; the only conceivable answer, is realized in the historical seventh position: the place of Sabbath and rest.

For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath…Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 12:8; 11:28

It’s Who we’ve waited for…only One did that for me.

In the best possible way, the saints are convicted.

With un-scaled eyes we realize that kings never freely tender their platforms, monarchs don’t voluntarily vacate their palaces, large doesn’t routinely pursue small, false idols cannot redeem, and dads won’t willingly sacrifice their boys.

Only One did that.

Only One could do that.

So in gratitude we cling firmly to doctrines of reasonable service and nonconformance to worldly canons, despite having access and freedom in all things. He has lovingly revealed that not all things are helpful (1 Corinthians 6:2) nor do all things bring Him glory. We’re submitted to restoration, because it testifies to what is good and what is acceptable and what is perfect in God.

As the lyricist declares, ‘because we believe,’ all that we have, precious or modest, we willingly sacrifice, knowing He is the sole provider. Our faith, our time, our talent, our audience — He has given it all. Therefore, whatever we do, we forego personal gain and do it all for the glory of God, giving Jesus Christ the recognition in every opportunity, so that others might come to know Him as we know Him (1 Corinthians 10:31-33).

If we’re invited to a thousand celebrations we know it’s only right at each occasion to seek out and thank the host — failure to do so is the grossest of insults. God gave His all and will continue to give His all and to the degree we understand what this means, is to the degree we give our all too.

Only one question remains.

Do You Believe?

As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. John 15:9-16

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But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel… Philippians 1:12

As it pertains to joy and our personal walks with Jesus Christ, the fact that Paul was in jail when he wrote so many of his letters is important. By Paul’s model we can recognize that any obstacle is but another opportunity to magnify our Savior. Paul’s attitude and conduct further demonstrates that we can experience the joy, which we have previously received, regardless of our circumstances. Just as the sand in our bathing suits is the natural by-product of having gone to the beach, joy is the supernatural consequence of choosing to walk by faith — it will always be there.

Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; Everlasting joy shall be theirs. Isaiah 61:7 

Why So Down?

Is the situation you are going through really worse than that of Paul’s? This man, who at the time was likely shackled to six different Roman guards during the course of any given day, found his joy in the fact that he had six different people he could regularly witness to. Paul’s outlook in prison had such an effect on other believers, both imprisoned and free, they were emboldened to move beyond their comfort zone and share the gospel with others.

It has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Philippians 1:13-14

Imagine if Paul chose to languish in his condition rather than write letters of encouragement and exhortation to the churches? One thing is for certain: we would not have them as part of the Bible today! The truth is that God allows these things to happen to us because He knows there are opportunities within these challenges to honor and glorify Him.  He also doesn’t want us to remain in the condition He found us and provides the conveyance by which we might excel.

Consider These Words

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ…you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake… Philippians 1:27-29

Did You See it

The stuff you might be going through or likely will go through in the future, is more or less a confirmation from the Lord that you are on the correct path. In this regard it is a privilege granted by Him that we might suffer for a divine purpose;  it’s a process of refinement that we get to endure. As it turns out, our afflictions are the mechanisms through which blessings can flow three ways.

How else could James possibly proclaim:

Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4

God is telling the submitted Christian that tribulation is not the draining siphon that the world sees, but rather a satiating funnel through which He can supply all our needs. Imagine that!

Don’t Resist

Hear the word tribulation or trial or affliction and it’s our tendency to bolster a defense. We gravitate towards the three C’s: contentment, complacency, and convenience, and often manufacture protective Christian comfort zones for ourselves. Alasdair A. K. White defines these places as,

A behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.

Don’t the words ‘neutral and limited’ just leap from the text?

The Christian would likely never say it out loud, but their disposition often screams, “I have worked hard to reach this point in my spiritual journey, I have given up a whole lot of sin to get here, and I have reached the point of ‘I’ll-do-this-but-no-more.’

When another brother or sister in the faith comes along, as Paul does, and suggests they could progress, they summarily reject the proposal for the sole purpose of maintaining their nonaligned and narrow position within a fabricated safety zone. I have witnessed the ruin of many a Christian friendship because of this selfish behavior.

 “Get away from me you legalist,” is frequently the response, when in reality, legalism is far from being the substantive issue. This ought not to be.

Where’s the allegiance to Christ Jesus?

Where’s the obedience?

Where’s the submission?

Where’s the scripture that proclaims Christians are to exist in a contrived comfort zone?

Did we so quickly forget that our comfort is found in the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31), the Holy Scriptures (Romans 15:4), in Holy prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:3), in Holy fellowship (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and our Holy Father (2 Corinthians 1:3), and not a zone?

Let us reject spiritual stagnancy and embrace those things that propel us forward to our common goal. Let there be so much joy in our pockets, that when we change our clothes at the end of the day, the floor might be covered with it.

I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. Philippians 3:13-17

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Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints–and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel… Ephesians 6:18-19

Did you see this recent headline?

American Sentenced to Prison for Insulting Thai Monarchy

I must confess that before I read the entire story, my first thought was,

Good. There are far too many arrogant Americans who believe they can go overseas, say or do whatever they want, and are then exempt from the consequences.”

I mean did you see the story of the three American college kids: Luke Gates, Derrik Sweeney, and Gregory Porter, who were arrested for throwing fire bombs at people during the riots in Egypt and then released from jail and sent home?

They weren’t hurling rocks or insults…they were throwing Molotov cocktails at human beings!

Sending these children home is exactly the wrong message to convey to an inexpedient, entitlement-prone, and irresponsible portion of our society. If Luke, Derrik, and Gregory were so compelled to fight for this cause, then they should own the repercussions as well.

Remember Michael Peter Fay?

He was the American who was sentenced to a caning in Singapore as an 18-year-old in 1994 for theft and vandalism. I suspect he learned a valuable lesson, and like it or not, he was an example for the rest of us. In light of current events, it would seem Luke, Derrik, and Gregory never heard about it.

Back to Thailand

This story is a little different.

Joe Gordon is a 55-year-old, Thai-born American, who several years ago, while living in Colorado, posted links to the Thai-banned biography of its monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. While visiting Thailand, he was arrested and sentenced to two and a half years in a Thai prison. Obviously, this situation has unique characteristics.

Having read the whole story (not just the headline), from my perspective, Joe is an innocent man…so how should we pray for him?

Speak Boldly For the Lord

I’m drawn to Paul’s prayer request in Ephesians.

And for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel…”

I find it remarkable that Paul, essentially an innocent man, never writes in any of his Epistles, “Oh yea…and please remember to pray that I be released from this awful jail.”

Maybe God Wants Me Here

Perhaps.

Are we too quick to assume that God doesn’t want us or Joe Gordon in a difficult situation? Do we mistakenly pray for release, when in reality the Lord has put us there or has allowed us to wallow for a purpose we have yet to realize?

I don’t know.

What we do know is that Paul wasn’t deserving and he never bemoaned his condition — he considered his predicament both a Divine honor and opportunity. How else could he have referred to himself as an ambassador in chains.  I suspect he ministered to many while in jail and led many innocent and guilty people to Jesus Christ.

Shining Opportunities

Regardless of what we are going through, there is always an opportunity for Jesus to come and get His glory or for us to glorify Him. In Paul’s case, he could have curled up and died in that jail, but instead he prayed for boldness in his ministry and (despite not being aware of it) wound-up penning much of the New Testament.

What about Joe Gorton? 

If we’re guided solely by our emotions, we’re praying for Joe’s release from prison. But is that God’s plan?

Is Joe a Christian and does God desire to use him in a Thai jail?

Is Joe unsaved and is it God’s desire to meet him in a Thai jail?

I’m don’t know and the last thing I want to do is pray against God’s will. God can get His glory in the ugliest of situations and we need to seek and pray in accordance with His will.

Bad Things Happen

We have opportunities to shine as well and my prayer for you is that you would continue to speak boldly the truths of the Gospel in your rotten health, in your financial debt, in your failed marriage, in the loss of your job, or whatever situation you find yourself, regardless if it’s your fault or not.

Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

Questions:

  • How does the Bible tell us to pray?
  • How has Jesus ministered to you while in the midst of a trial?
  • Has being led by emotions (alone) ever made matters worse?

Please remember to pray for Joe and the persecuted church.

~~~

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