Rappin’ With Rick

Prayer

Last Sunday when we were being reminded by the Apostle Paul about the first concerns of the church, we noted that the first thing he urged upon the church was prayer. That, of course, should have surprised no one. The whole point of Christ’s coming to earth was to make it possible for us to once again have a relationship with our heavenly Father, and there is no point in having a relationship with someone if we don’t talk. So prayer is the natural, albeit supernatural, expression of our relationship with God.

Having said that, it is important that we occasionally re-examine the level of communication we maintain with our Creator because it’s easy to get so comfortable with prayer that we settle for something less than it can be. I was reminded of that during my class following Sunday’s sermon.

LouAnn Kunzeman shared something with the class that she and Carolyn Brown enjoy on a weekly basis. They meet with a large group of Christian women from a variety of denominal backgrounds for a time of directed prayer. They have both found it to be a wonderful addition to their prayer life, and LouAnn expressed a desire to have such a prayer group in our church. I invited her to present her ideas to the elders at our next meeting, so you may be hearing about a new opportunity to regularly gather for prayer in the near future.

Another aspect of Paul’s admonition to prayer that we may need to give additional thought to is his call for us to pray for the king and all in authority. In the message I mentioned that we ought to be praying for our president, and the struggles he faces and the personal needs he may have. I also suggested that we should carry his unspoken petitions before the throne of God, and put into prayer the frustrations and doubts he tweets about.

Obviously President Trump is not King David, but while reading in the Psalms last week I came across something David wrote that could have been written by Trump. “My enemies speak evil against me, ‘When will he die, and his name perish?’ And when he comes to see me, he speaks falsehood; his heart gathers wickedness to itself; when he goes outside, he tells it. All who hate me whisper together against me; against me they devise my hurt.” (Psalm 41:5-7)

The king of Israel’s prayer life was no doubt better than our president’s, so if we would lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity, we must be praying on his behalf.

God Bless, Rick

Being Trustworthy in the Face of Treachery

If you were deceived into agreeing to do something, would you feel obligated to do it after finding out you had been deceived? That’s the question we explored last Sunday night, and one I think we all need to consider.

I’m pretty sure that if we signed a contract that proved to have been made under false pretense, most of us would feel justified in breaking the contract. That’s why the events recorded in Joshua 9 & 10 are so shocking. Let me recap them briefly for you.

God had ordered the Israelites to completely wipe out the inhabitants of Canaan, and after doing so in Jericho and Ai, the residents of Gibeon came up with a scheme to trick the Israelites into letting them live. They pretended to be from a distant land, and deceived Joshua into making a covenant with them. When it was discovered what they had done, some in Israel sought to do what God had told them to do, but Joshua and the leaders wouldn’t let them. They had given their word, and had sworn by the Lord, so they agreed to the terms of the covenant. The Gibeonites were allowed to continue living in the land, and became servants to the Israelites.

When five Canaanite kings heard what the Gibeonites had done, they assembled to attack them. They, in turn, appealed to Joshua, and rather than look the other way and assume God was going to do to them what he couldn’t do because of the deceptive covenant, he agreed to protect them. And God confirmed that He too wanted the covenant upheld. He killed more of the Canaanites with giant hailstones than the soldiers of Israel killed with the sword. And He made the sun stand still so they could finish the job!

Then, according to II Samuel 21, God brought judgment on Israel because King Saul had tried to wipe out the Gibeonites who lived in the land, four hundred years after the covenant had been made!

In a faithless world where everyone seems to be looking for loopholes, we must never forget that our word is a reflection of God’s faithfulness toward us.

God Bless, Rick

Testing Stress and Testing Faith

How well do you respond to stress in your life, and in what ways has it been tested lately?

A good friend recently noted that I talk a lot about myself in my column, but usually end up in the Bible, so here goes.

Yes, I did have a stress test last week, and apparently there are different ways to test the way our body reacts to stress. Paul Hunley recently tested on a treadmill, and when Jan McLaughlin heard that I was to have a nuclear test she told me to expect time on the treadmill as well. I was actually looking forward to showing them how good of shape I’m in, but they must have assumed otherwise. All they did was feed me snacks, inject a couple of things in my arm, and take pictures of my heart. I guess I passed because they let me go, and I haven’t received a call. Now on to the Bible.

You won’t find the word “stress” in your concordance because it’s not in the Bible. We do, however, find references to anxiety, worry, trouble, the struggles of life, and how we should respond to such.

Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1) Obviously He wants us to trust that our heavenly Father will take care of our needs, and that what He did on the cross should make us confident of His love for us. The Apostle Paul spoke of the peace that will come if we take our needs to the Lord. In Philippians 4:6-7 he wrote, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Noting that we are tested in various ways, James actually said we should consider it all joy when we encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance, and that endurance is what makes us perfect and complete. (James 1:2-3)

The trials you are facing may not bring a smile to your face, but if you believe that God will not allow you to be tested beyond what you are able to endure, (I Cor 10:13) you should still find joy in His promise and provision.

God Bless, Rick

Our Spiritual Heart Monitor

I have five electrodes stuck on my chest that are attached to a monitor that records the behavior of my heart. After thirty days the record will be sent to my doctor for evaluation and appropriate treatment.

This got me thinking about what kind of report would be given if the spiritual activity of our heart was being recorded, and then sent to God.

Of course, God doesn’t need a monitor to see what’s going on in the heart of man, for God “sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7)

Still, if we thought we were hooked up to some kind of spiritual monitor, it might cause us to stop and think about what we are allowing to take place within our heart. And Jesus made it clear that some pretty awful things can come out of our hearts.“Out of the heart of men proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.” (Mark 7:21-22)

And He knows when it’s happening.“And Jesus knowing their thoughts said,‘Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?’” (Matthew 9:4)

If we would keep evil from filling our hearts, we must fill them with God’s word, as did David. “Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee.” (Psalm 119:11) And then, if our spiritual monitor sends a signal that we are still having a heart problem, we can again do as David did. We can pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

God is able to cleanse our hearts by faith (Acts 15:8-9) and fill us with the Spirit, enabling us to sing spiritual songs and make melody with our heart to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:19)

I won’t know what the cardiologist has to say for several weeks, but I know through Christ my heart has been made clean, and I’m still singing hymns and making melodies in my heart. That is, in the one that can still keep a steady beat.

God Bless, Rick

Interpretation or Speculation?

How do we avoid going from interpretation to speculation when reading the Bible? That’s a question I hadn’t given much thought to, until we began our new study in I Timothy last Sunday.

After the greeting, Paul began his letter by urging Timothy to reign in those who were teaching strange doctrines, doctrines based on things that give rise to mere speculation. Beliefs that go beyond simply understanding and applying what we find in Scripture, to speculating about things that may not have been in the mind of the authors, or the Spirit.

We noted, as a case in point, the Fox News report that “Biblical prophecy claims the Rapture is coming April 23.” The article quoted a numerologist who has determined that astronomical events that will be taking place on April 23 are those spoken of in Revelation 12, and they signal the beginning of events leading to the end of the world and Christ’s return.

The article, however, also quoted someone who disagreed. He said, “There is nothing to suggest that April 23 is a momentous date for biblical prophecy, and Christians need to be careful about being drawn into such sensationalist claims.” So the prophetic pronouncement was most likely mere speculation, and the only thing momentous about April 23 is that it is Tina’s 50th birthday!

Speculation came into view again at our Sunday night study. We were looking at the third word of Christ from the cross, which was simply, “Woman, behold, your son!” and “Behold, your mother!” The obvious thing that was taking place is that Jesus was entrusting His mother into the care of John. Our author, who has some amazing insights into the Scriptures, read into that simple statement Mary being declared as the new Eve, the mother of the Mystical Body the Church, and the Queen of Martyrs.

When trying to understand where all that came from, we concluded he must have been looking at the text through a lens that had already been colored to see what he saw. We also acknowledged that we too have a tendency to do the same thing. Doctrines that have been passed on to us, and teachings that are held by those we hold in high regard, can cause us to see things that aren’t actually in the text.

I guess the bottom line is that in order to keep from speculation, we need to be careful what kind of spectacles we are wearing when reading the Scriptures.

God Bless, Rick