Sunday, March 29, 2015

PALM SUNDAY LETTER TO BENJAMIN NETANYAHU


This coming Sunday, Christians all over the world celebrate Palm Sunday. It is the time that we recognize the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem mounted on the back of a colt of a donkey. We believe that this was done to fulfill the Messianic prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, which proclaims: “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your King is coming to you, gentle and mounted on a donkey, even a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”


The meaning of the prophecy, of course, was to demonstrate the manner in which Jesus, as the Messiah, was proclaiming himself as King. In that past era of the conquering of nations and kingdoms, a victorious king would not ride into a defeated city on a lowly donkey, but on a mighty war steed or in a war chariot. But this was not how Jesus proclaimed himself on that day.

There will come a day, incidentally, when Jesus will be seen riding a mighty steed in order to take back his kingdom. We read of this in the book of Revelation. But that is a subject for another time.

But it is Jesus the riding of the colt on that occasion some 2000 years ago that we celebrate on Palm Sunday. As he did so, the crowd that had been accompanying him from the town of Bethany were joined by more people from Jerusalem. They laid not only palm fronds down on the road before Jesus, but also their own cloaks. Since there was a multitude of people present, and we are told that most of the people removed their cloaks to lay them down before Jesus, the road was transformed into a carpeted path to give him honored entrance into the city.

As the people were doing this, they cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!”

This word “Hosanna,” is one that we use even today. Perhaps we do not use it in our everyday speech, but many Christian songs are even based upon the theme of Hosanna. I believe I even remember some entire song books with that title.

But what does the word mean? Why were the people shouting “Hosanna” on that day?

As I am sure that you know, the word is actually a combination of two Hebrew words that when placed together in this way mean “Save us, we implore you!” or "Save now!"

The people on that original day of palms where looking to Jesus to save them. However, the salvation that they were looking for is not in the same regard as we usually think about it in our churches in these days. The salvation that the people of Jerusalem were looking for on that day was not from their sinful ways, but from the Roman occupation and oppression.

That is why they were calling Jesus, “the son of David.” The Historical King David was regarded in those days as the greatest of all Israel’s kings, even as I believe he is still regarded today in Israel. As the people were shouting and referring to Jesus as the son of David, they saw in him one who had done so many miraculous works – healing many people and even, as they had been so recently reminded, raising a man from the dead! Certainly, they thought, this Jesus from Nazareth had the power to overthrow the Romans.

The crowd was so caught up in the excitement of the moment, that the lesson of Jesus entering the city while riding on a colt of a donkey completely escaped them. Jesus was here to save them, yes, but not in the manner in which they were looking. He was not coming as a warrior who would lead a revolution against the Romans.


In the midst of all of the events of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem by Jesus, he had two reactions that I find interesting.

The first is what he said to some Pharisees who were in the crowd who told Jesus to rebuke the people for their actions and what they were saying about him. He told them this: “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” (Luke 19:41).

We are not told what the reaction of the Pharisees was to these words. Perhaps they were simply dumbfounded, but given their subsequent actions in the days to follow, I think that it is more likely that they were angered at Jesus’ words. They understood something about Jesus that most in the multitude did not.

The multitude was looking on Jesus at that time as a political hero, a military hero, but the Pharisees understood that Jesus was claiming that he was God, and the Messiah spoken of by the prophets. They could have accepted someone who would lead a simply political movement, but they could not abide by someone who was there to upset their religious system, and this is what Jesus was doing.

In fact, Jesus was soon to demonstrate this literally. On the day following, Jesus entered the temple and began to do some upsetting. The temple area had turned into little more than a market place where animals were sold for sacrificial purposes and where the money changers had set up their tables. Jesus entered into this area, looked around for a moment, then began overturning these tables and driving the merchants out.

After he had restored order, Jesus then began to teach the people. “Is it not written,” he asked them, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer or all the nations?’ But you have made it into a robbers den!” (Mark 11:17)

Then the blind and the lame came to Jesus to be healed. Jesus did heal them. When the chief priests and the scribes saw what had happened and also remembering the crowd when they were shouting, “Hosanna to the son of David,” they began to become indignant.

The priests said to him, “Do you hear what these people are saying?”

Jesus responded to the religious leaders in this way: “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babes you have prepared praise for yourself?” (Matthew 21:16). 

Stones that Cry and Infants who Praise

The stones praising Jesus? Infants and nursing babes? What did Jesus mean by this?

Well, the scripture that tells of the infants and nursing babes praising him, which Jesus was quoting, was taken from Psalm 8. The Psalm begins: O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is our name in all the earth, who has displayed your splendor above the heavens! (Psalm 8:1)

There is also this Psalm that clarifies what Jesus was saying: “The heavens are telling of the Glory of God, and their expanse is declaring the works of his hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals his knowledge” (Psalm 19:1-2 NAS).

Jesus is the creator of the universe, and by whatever means, the universe and all that is in it will praise him. To us, as men and women, God has given something that he apparently has not given any other of his creation: a will that is free. We have the ability to make our own choices. That means, by our own disobedience, we have the ability to refuse this recognition of his Sovereign Lordship. However, when Jesus spoke of infants and nursing babes, and even rocks declaring God’s greatness, he was saying that even though that through there will be the disobedience of a few ungrateful ones, this will not prevent God from being praised! He is Lord! 

Weeping over the City

That is the first thing about the response of Jesus to the events of the day that I find interesting. The second thing is found in Luke 19:41. When Jesus was approaching, he looked up and seeing the city, he wept over it.



Jesus Weeping over Jerusalem

St. Vincent de Paul Chapel, St. Louis, MO
To those who were close enough at the moment to actually see Jesus weeping, I am sure that they were a bit taken aback by this reaction. Why should Jesus be weeping now? This should have been one of his greatest moments. He was being adored and praised by a great multitude and hailed as a victor. The religious leaders of the day, who had long been opposed to Jesus, were also opposed to the adoration of Jesus by the crowd, but they could do nothing about it. They were powerless in the face of such a multitude.

But Jesus wept, and then said these words: “If you had known in this day, even you, the things that make for peace! But now, they have been hidden from your eyes.”

The people thought that the path to peace lied in expelling the Romans from their land. In their view, this was their land given to them by God. The fact that the Romans were occupying their land and ruling over them was an abomination to them. But expelling the Romans, as the Jews wanted to do, was not the path to peace.

Jesus wept for two reasons. The first was that he foresaw all of the horrendous events that would eventually happen in the city. “For the days shall come upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank before you, and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and will level you to the ground and your children within you. And they will not leave in you one stone upon another” (Luke 19:43-44a NAS).

The most immediate fulfillment of this prophecy would take place in Jerusalem about seventy years after Jesus spoke these words. In AD 70, The Roman general Titus marched into the city and fulfilled the words of Jesus exactly.

But that was not all that Jesus said as he was weeping over Jerusalem. I stopped the quote above in mid-sentence. Jesus also gave the reason that the city would suffer such a fate. His closing remark was, “Because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” 

As a Hen Would Gather her Brood

The Savior had come, the Messiah had lived among the people. He had performed many miracles not so that he could demonstrate his power and gain a large following, but he did it simply because of the fact that he loved his people and wanted to care for their needs as a shepherd cares of the needs of his sheep.

He did it also to fulfill prophecies that had spoken of the Messiah. Prophecies such as are found in Isaiah 35: 3-6: 

Encourage the exhausted and strengthen the feeble.

Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not. Behold, your ‘god will come with vengeance; the recompense of God will come, but he will save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.

Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb will shout for joy. 


This promised One, of whom Isaiah wrote, visited the people. The people should have recognized who he was. He came for a time to live with them, walk among them and teach them, and heal their sicknesses and infirmities. Most often in the gospels, when Jesus did some miraculous work, it was not called a miracle, but a sign. The miracles that Jesus did were meant not only to heal, but to demonstrate that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

Jesus said, “If I do [the works of my Father (vs 37)], though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father” (John 10:38).

But they did not recognize him. Because of this, Jesus wept.

This was not the last time that Jesus would lament for the city. In Matthew 23:37-39 Jesus again grieved for the city when he said,  

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling! Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (NAS) 

On Palm Sunday, the people recognized Jesus as the “Son of David,” but it seems that they did not pay full attention to the quote from the Psalms, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Psalm118:23). They would not have peace until they recognize that Jesus had also come “In the name of the Lord.”

Today, the Jews that live in that same land of Israel still are looking for peace. Just the same as 2000 years ago, they believe the path to peace must lie in some sort freedom and security.

There might be something to be said for a short-term peace that this could bring, but it will never be a true peace or a lasting peace until they come to terms with the truth that they had been visited by the Messiah who came in the name of the Lord. They did not recognize this visitation at the time that Jesus came, but he remains the only hope for peace.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

THE PROPHETESS ANNA

During the month of March, I am writing about some of the widows found in the Bible and from whom we can learn a great deal about our own spiritual lives. For an introduction as to why I think this is important, please scroll down and read the post from March 1 (Rich in Widows).
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THE PROPHETESS ANNA

Anna, the daughter of Phanuel was the prophetess who was in the temple on the day that Mary and Joseph brought in the infant Jesus to present him to the Lord. This was on the same occasion that Simeon took Jesus in his arms and pronounced a prophecy concerning the newly born Messiah.

The widow Anna had been a widow for very many years.

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
Rembrandt
Married only seven years to her husband before he died, and now being eighty-four years old, she had probably lived as a widow for some sixty years or more. As far as we can tell, all of these years as a widow were spent living in the temple.

Of course we would only be guessing if we tried to reconstruct what she must first have been thinking as a young widow – no doubt still in her twenties. However, I do not think that I would be mistaken to say that most young women, widowed at this age, would again be thinking of marriage instead of facing a life time alone. Also as far as we know, Anna did not even have any living children and perhaps never did have children.

Whatever were her thoughts in those early years, the result of them was that she decided to dedicate herself to three things: serving, praying and fasting. These are not activities that are self-gratifying. Rather, they are activities that requires one to give of oneself. These are activities that require that a conscious decision must be made to forego any pleasures that someone might otherwise find in this life, and instead live a life solely for the benefit of others.

But this is not to say that Anna in no way received benefit. She was one of only two people that we know of in the temple that day that recognized the little baby that Mary carried in her arms as being the long-awaited Messiah.

It may have been true that Anna first realized that the baby was the Messiah when Simeon took the child Jesus in his arms and proclaimed the prophecy concerning him, but even if this was the case, she heard and believed. Not only did she believe, but she also told everyone that she knew who was, like she, “waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

This was Anna’s earthly reward. This was the benefit that she gained by choosing to live a self-sacrificing life, rather than a self-centered life. She beheld and recognized the Christ child, and then proclaimed him to all who would hear.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

NAOMI AND RUTH - Part 2

(Before reading this post, please scroll down to first read part 1 of Naomi and Ruth)
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Ruth Meets Boaz - Nicolas Poussin, 1660
As it happened, the field in which Ruth chose to glean was that owned by a relative of Naomi’s husband, of the clan of Elimelech. This relative was a man by the name of Boaz. When Boaz found out who Ruth was, that she was the young widow that had come to help Naomi, he took a special interest in her. Everyone in Bethlehem had heard the story of Naomi and her daughter-in-law. We read in the text that the whole town had been “stirred” by their story.

Boaz told Ruth that she should not go to another field because he had instructed his harvesters not to mistreat her. She could feel safe while she gleaned in his fields. More than that, he told his workers to pull some stems of barley out of the bundles that they had already gathered and leave them for Ruth to pick up.

Boaz, as we discover when we read the story, eventually falls in love with Ruth and the two become married. Initially however, it does not appear that infatuation was the reason that Boaz began to show favoritism toward Ruth. Rather, it was the reputation that Ruth had gained among the people of Bethlehem because she had given up her own life in order to devote herself to the care of Naomi.

Ruth asked Boaz, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”

It is interesting to see the difference in perspective between the two widows, the elder Naomi and the younger Ruth. Whereas Naomi at this time was viewing her life as one plagued by “calamity,” as she called it, and had become bitter because of her circumstances, Ruth acknowledged the blessing that was given to her by a perfect stranger.

Boaz recognized this trait in Ruth, and responded to her question as to why he was being kind to her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge” (Ruth 2:11-12 NAS).

In the story, Boaz not only eventually marries Ruth, and in that act redeems both her and Naomi by buying the field that Naomi still owned. By doing this, he also pledges to care for the needs of Ruth as well as Naomi. Later, Ruth and Boaz have a child, a baby boy.

The widow Naomi, who earlier seemed always to be speaking of her life being filled with bitterness, now instead sees her life as one of blessing, as this old blessed widow is able to hold her grandson on her lap.

The women of Bethlehem perhaps said it best when they said to Naomi:  “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him” (Ruth 4:14-15 ESV).

The story of Ruth is one of the most beautiful of love stories in the Bible. It has historical and messiahlogical significance as well, since the baby boy that was born was to be named, Obed, who would become the father of Jesse and the grandfather of King David. It is a family line that would eventually be fulfilled in Jesus Christ, also born in Bethlehem.

But for our purposes here, the story of Ruth is an illustration of how the bitterness of widowhood was turned into blessing. Naomi and Ruth were both redeemed by the kinsman-redeemer Boaz, but in some ways, Ruth was the redeemer for Naomi. Ruth’s decision to stay with Naomi, despite very difficult circumstances that seemed to have no bright future, and Ruth’s equally difficult decision to look for blessing instead of becoming bitter, lifted Naomi herself from our of the depths of bitterness.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

NAOMI AND RUTH - Part 1

During the month of March, I am writing about some of the widows found in the Bible and from whom we can learn a great deal about our own spiritual lives. For an introduction as to why I think this is important, please scroll down and read the post from March 1 (Rich in Widows).
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In the Old Testament book of Ruth we have the story of a widow who had no sons, at least none who were living. This was the widow Naomi. She had had two sons, but like her own husband, they also had died.

Beyond this difficulty, Naomi was living in a land far from her home. With no husband and no sons, she considered that her life would come to a bitter end; in fact she said, “Do not call me Naomi, but call me Mara, (which means bitterness) for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me… and has brought calamity upon me.”

But what the widow Naomi did have was two daughters-in-law. These two young women were also widowed when Naomi’s sons, their own husbands, had died. When Naomi decided to return to her homeland, the two daughters-in-law planned on going with her.
 


But Naomi objected. She told them to stay with their own people and said to them, “It is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.”

Ruth Declares Her Loyalty to Naomi - Pieter Lastman
But Naomi did not realize how the Lord was to care for her. One of the daughters did return to stay with her people, but the other, Ruth, insisted upon going with her.

Ruth told her mother-in-law, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you” (Ruth 1:16-17 ESV).
 
Realizing that it would do no good to further try to dissuade Ruth, Naomi said no more. The two widows set off together to return to the homeland of Naomi from which she had long been absent. This home was in Bethlehem of the land of Judea.

The Gleaners - Jean-François Millet
It does not seem that Naomi had any hopes or plans for when she and Ruth returned, for she seems to have initially done little to get themselves established.

It was her daughter-in-law who took the first action to obtain some reserves of food. Since it was harvesting time, she set out to the fields to glean some barley grain that had been passed over by the men who were doing the harvest.

(I will post the conclusion of this story in a couple of days)
 


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

THE WIDOW OF ZERAPHATH - Part 2

(Please scroll down to read part 1 before reading this post)

THE WIDOW OF ZERAPHATH - PART 2

But Elijah instead said this: “Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first, and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son.”

We may first think that perhaps Elijah had not properly
heard the widow. She told him that she only had a “handful of flour,” hardly enough to make Elijah a bread cake and still have some left over for her and her son.

But Elijah had indeed heard her. However, he also told her what God had said: “The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain on the face of the earth.”

It is almost astounding to me that the widow did as Elijah told her to do. Whatever was the depth of her belief in the LORD God, she at least decided that she would believe him this far. The result was that she made the cake first for Elijah, then for her and her son. After that, just as Elijah had told her, the flour and oil lasted for many days, until the drought had ended.

The lessons for the widow did not end, however. God tested her belief (and that of Elijah) even further. Her son became so ill that he died. The distraught widow came to Elijah, and in not so subtly a way, blamed him for the boy’s death.

“What do you have against me, O man of God?” she cried to him. “You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and cause the death of my son!”

Elijah seems to be shocked at this turn of events. He took the boy in his arms and brought him up to the room on the roof where he was staying. Now it was his turn to cry out.

“O LORD my God, have you brought calamity upon this woman by killing her son? ...Let this child’s life come into him again!”

God answered the prophet’s request and revived the boy. Elijah then brought him down to the widow. “See, your son lives,” he simply told her.

“Now I know that you are a man of God, and the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth,” the widow responded. Whether she had been a true believer in God before may be in question, but it seems that now she had been convinced.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

THE WIDOW OF ZERAPHATH - Part 1

During the month of March, I am writing about some of the widows found in the Bible and from whom we can learn a great deal about our own spiritual lives. For an introduction as to why I think this is important, please scroll down and read the post from March 1 (Rich in Widows).

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THE WIDOW OF ZERAPHATH
One of the examples that we have in the Old Testament is the Widow of Zarephath. This is the widow to whom the prophet Elijah was instructed to go when he was fleeing from the wicked king Ahab. Prior to this, Elijah had been hiding near the banks of the brook Cherith and being fed by ravens.

However, a drought came to the land and the brook dried up. It was then that God told him to go to the widow’s house, which was quite some distance away, up along the Mediterranean coast. It was in a region dominated by worship to the pagan god Baal. God instructed Elijah to go to Zarahpath, for in that in that place, he had “commanded” a widow to provide for him.

I find the conversation between Elijah and the widow to be an interesting one. Elijah found the widow near the gate of the city gathering a few sticks for a cooking fire. Elijah opened the conversation by asking her for a drink of water.

As the widow was going to get a little jar with some water, the prophet called after her, “Would you also please bring me a piece of bread.”

It is only then that we learn of this widow’s dire situation. She turned to respond to Elijah. “As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.”

There are several things about the about the conversation that interests me. First of all, the widow says to the prophet Elijah, “As the Lord your God lives.”

She must have recognized Elijah as a prophet of God, but we do not know how she knew this. There may have been more to the conversation than is recorded for us, but somehow this women realized who Elijah was. We notice in God’s instructions to Elijah, he told him that he had “commanded” the widow to care for him. We also do not know the form of this commandment. It is generally assumed that in saying this, God was simply indicating that he ordained that this would happen, without actually indicating this to the widow directly.

Perhaps this is so or perhaps she had in some way received some instructions from God. But the fact is, even though she lived in a pagan land, she at least knew about the true God. This is not to say that she was a follower of God, for in response to Elijah’s request for bread, she begins with the phrase, “As the Lord your God lives” (my emphasis).

Beyond that fact however, interesting to me was Elijah’s response to her after hearing of the distressful and pitiful situation of the widow and her son. She was already going to the trouble of getting Elijah some water, when he also requested some bread’ It was to be the last of the bread that she had. The fire that she was preparing to start was to cook what would be the last meal for her and her son, that they “may eat it and die,” as she put it.

Hearing this, we might expect Elijah to withdraw his request for the bread. After all, what self-respecting man would take the last meagre meal of a poor widow and her young son?
 
(I will conclude this post in a couple of days)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

THE POOR WIDOW'S OFFERING

During the month of March, I am writing about some of the widows found in the Bible and from whom we can learn a great deal about our own spiritual lives. For an introduction as to why I think this is important, please scroll down and read the post from March 1 (Rich in Widows).

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THE POOR WIDOW'S OFFERING

This widow's story is found both in the Gospel of Mark, and in the Gospel of Luke. Mark tells it like this:

He (Jesus) sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the multitude were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums.  And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent.

And calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44 NAS)

This is all that we learn about this widow. We know nothing about her background or situation, only that she was poor. The only reason that two of the gospel writers tell her story is because of this single act of hers and what Jesus said
about her.

I have often thought specifically about the fact that Jesus said that she put in “more” than all the contributors to the treasury, despite the fact that her amount was very small. We may not have put it in the same way. We may have said that her devotion or commitment was greater, since she gave all that she had. This despite the fact that the actual monetary amount was very small.

But that is not what Jesus said. He called the amount of the contribution more, not just the greater percentage of what she had. This leads me to understand that the economy of God is different than what we see in the world today.

When we are raising funds in the economy of the world today, we are given a dollar amount that must be gathered before the work can begin. Vivian and I knew this well when we were first going to Venezuela. We were going there under the auspices of a large mission organization that understood very well the expected cost of the job that we were to do there. They had calculated not only the daily living expense, but the cost of visas, travel, medical, work expenses, and the list goes on. The total amount was the number of dollars that we were expected to raise.

From the very beginning of this task of raising this money, I had to admit to some ambivalent thoughts about it. On the one hand, I knew that there were actual dollar costs for the mission that could not be met unless we had the funds to do so. But on the other hand, it bothered me a little that the work of the Lord should be tied so closely to a dollar amount, as if one were purchasing an automobile.

At that time, “the widow’s mite” taught me a great lesson. The widow with the two small copper coins wanted to contribute to something that she believed to be important and very worthwhile. So important was this to her that, according to the words of Jesus, she gave “all that she owned, all that she had to live on.”

Also according to the words of Jesus, this small amount, which amounted to a penny, was “more than all the contributors to the treasury.”

Such is the economy of heaven, and so it was that when we began to raise money for our mission work, I came to realize that the dollar amount was not the principle goal. This was a revolutionary thought to me. We all have seen posters of fund-raising campaigns that feature a large picture of a thermometer with increments of dollar amounts – the top amount being the goal. As the campaign progresses, we can see the red of the thermometer climb slowly higher and higher. All eyes are set on the quantity of dollars needed.

But this is not the economy of heaven. In the economy of heaven, eyes are set not principally on the gift, but instead on the giver. After all, it is only the giver who has lasting value. The money is temporal, but the giver will endure forever.

This is what this widow taught me, and so it was when Vivian and I began our “deputation work,” as it is called, we decided that instead of our goal being to try and “raise the funds,” we would instead see what we could do to bring blessing and encouragement to the churches that we visited.
 
The result of what we had learned from the widow’s mite was that we enjoyed our time of visiting churches, since we had as our main objective to bring encouragement to them in any way that we were able. We were, of course, also conscious of the requirements put onto us in order to be able to leave for Venezuela. Nevertheless, I also came to realize that the quantity was dependent upon the quality of the giver.

It was in the giver where we saw the true blessing of the Lord, not in the money that we raised.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

RICH IN WIDOWS

 (Please read the article to see what I mean by this)

When I meet people around the area and they learn that I am from the church where I serve as visitation pastor, I often get comments like, “Oh, that’s a very active church,” or “they have good leadership there,” or “a good youth program.” I even get comments about the nice facilities.

I do not disagree with these remarks, but when I think that the person with whom I am talking might understand what I mean, and if I have a few moments to explain myself, I might say, “Yes, and the church is also very rich in widows.”

That’s a bit of an alarming statement so you can see why I do not say it very often, but if you have a few moments, let me explain to you what I mean by it.
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It is almost a little surprising just how prominent of a role in the pages of Scripture are women who are widows. The subject of widows comes up time and time again, both in stories and in teachings. Verses concerning the treatment of widows are very numerous, such as this one in the book of Zechariah: “Do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another” (Zechariah 7:10 NAS).

In the social structure of both the Old and the New Testaments, widows often found themselves in very troublesome financial circumstances. They were also often the recipients of mistreatment by others, because in those male dominated societies, widows sometimes had no one to defend them or to be an advocate for their rights.

Because of this, widows hold a special place in the heart of God. Along with others in society that have few to defend them, God offers widows particular protection. “The LORD protects the strangers… He supports the fatherless and the widow” (Psalm 146:9 NAS).

But beyond this about widows, their stories are also given as examples to teach us positive aspects of life. Often the widows had grown children to care for them, but because their husband had died, the one who had been their main provider and protector in this life, the many widows in the Bible that we read about had learned or were learning to abandon everything else and put their trust only in God.

We all can learn a lot from these widows of the Bible, and I will tell you something else; we can learn a lot from the widows that we have as a part of many of our churches. In my ministry as a visitation pastor, I have the opportunity to visit many of them, and I can tell you that even thought their physical life is declining, the spiritual lives that they live with the Lord keeps increasing in strength.
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We often single out and honor many people who work in our churches, and many churches are blessed to have so many different and various people who are actively involved with service. But we need to also honor the strength that we have in our widows. These ladies pray for people, they give perspective and guidance, and they are powerful examples of a life given to the Lord.

It is a strength for a church if it is rich in widows.

(In my posts for the month of March, I will be writing about some of these widows in the Bible whose stories are told so that we might learn from them)