her continual coming…

Luke 18:1-8 informs us that Jesus taught a parable about a persistent woman and an unjust judge.  In this parable, the woman  KEPT COMING to the judge and requesting that he protect and defend her against her adversary, literally,    d o   j u s t i c e.  “(4) And for a time he would not; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have neither reverence or fear for God nor respect or consideration for man, (5) yet because this widow continues to bother me, I will defend and protect and avenger her, lest she give me intolerable annoyance and wear me out by her continual coming…” (Amplified Bible).

I love the function of the conjunction “but” used in verse four.  It signifies a contrasting relationship between the immediate preceding and following text which it logically joins together.  This particular conjunction in verse four signifies a contrast between the happenings of a former time and those of a later time.  More than that, it represents the existence of a particular variable which caused the happenings of the former time to be distinguished from those of the later time.

In the former time, the judge would not grant the woman the protection, defense, nor justice she requested.  In the later time, the judge granted the woman the protection, defense, and justice she requested.  So then what exactly is the particular variable responsible for marking such a contrast?  Simply put: the persistence of the woman.

Her continual coming to the unjust judge hassled him to the point where his ability to persist in intentional ignorance of the woman’s plea entirely burst!

Jesus’ transition from the example into His explanation is phenomenal, He exclaims, “Listen to what the unjust judge says!”  It is quite like the explanation in the example Jesus shares in Luke 11:11-13 (and Matthew 7:9-11) where He says, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,       h o w   m u c h   m o r e   will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (NASB).

In similar manner, if the unjust judge ultimately (in the sense of eventually) renders a just decision,  h o w   m u c h   m o r e   will the Just Judge rule in ultimate (in the utmost sense) justice!  “[W]ill not [our just] God defend and protect and avenge His elect (His chosen ones), who cry to Him day and night?“(Lk. 18:7, Amplified Bible)

Did you notice that right there?  Do you see it?  DAY and NIGHT!  What!?! You mean to tell me now that in order for God to answer my prayers I have to kneel on my poor knees 24/7 to beg Him!?!  A response in the style of the Apostle Paul─ certainly not!

You see, the point is that God is NOT the unjust judge but IS the Just Judge.  He is NOT the unjust judge who cringes every time He hears the familiar voices of those who continually come before Him.  He is the Just Judge who IS perfectly Just, ruling in complete justice teaching His beloved through this very parable that He desires His Kingdom’s inhabitants, His people to personally and continually come before Him!

Isn’t that absolutely wonderful!  God wants you to personally and continually come before Him.  His desire for you is that you “should always pray and not give up” (Lk. 18:1, NIV84).  And do you know how and why this is possible?  “Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence” (Eph. 3:12, NLT).

Did you notice that right there?  Do you see it?  Because of persistent FAITH in Christ we can now COME boldly and confidently.  And such bold and confident access to the presence of God is not a right we gain to sing the wanna-wanna-blues.  So I conclude this post here with the very question Jesus poses as the conclusion to the parable He told: “when the Son of Man comes, will He find [persistence in] faith on the earth?” (Lk. 18:8, Amplified Bible).

Victoria

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Time Together

This was an especially difficult week for us as a family.   You see, we are a family that enjoys spending time together, even if that time is just spent sitting together in rocking chairs, hanging out on the front porch.   However, this week we did not get to spend our usual “family time together” mostly because I was traveling for business.   That meant that instead of time together we would be miles away from each other.    Making this week even worse was the fact that my daughter, Victoria, was on a mission trip in Africa, thousands of miles away from us and still waaaay too long before we would get to see her!   By the middle of the week we were really missing our time together.

Then it happened, my wife sent me a text message saying that my daughter would call me from Africa at around 3:00.   I couldn’t wait for that call to come in!   But then I thought, how was I going to take the call?   I was in a meeting and I really needed to be “fully engaged” in the meeting, contributing and paying attention.   My “business mind” was telling me that if I took the call and left the room it would look bad, especially in front of my boss who was also in the meeting.   I had my cell phone on silent mode out on the table in front of me.   I sat there for a moment debating “what should I do?” and then came the moment of decision, my phone lit and up popped the picture of my “little girl” telling me that my daughter was calling her daddy.   There was no hesitation, my “father’s heart” won out over “my business mind” and in one swift motion I picked up the phone, answered it, stood up and headed out the door of the conference room!

As  I heard my daughter’s voice on the phone saying “hi dad”,  I felt a peace and joy wash over me.  Even though she was thousands of miles away, for those few moments we were right next to each other sitting on the rocking chair getting to talk about what was going on in our lives.   Once the call ended, I went back in to the meeting feeling uplifted.   It wasn’t but a few minutes later when I received another great surprise, it was another call – but this time it was on of my sons!   Again my “father’s heart” won out over “my business mind” and I ran out of the room for a second time to answer my phone.

As I walked through the door of the conference room, I couldn’t help but realize how excited I was just to hear from my children.   Then it hit me, that is how GOD must feel about us!   I believe that GOD, our Heavenly Father, loves hearing from HIS children.   I believe that just the way that I love spending time with my wife and children, God loves to spend time with HIS Bride, with HIS Children!    Do we enjoy spending time with the LORD as much as HE loves to spend time with us?

As I was pondering this thought, I couldn’t help but think of an event that occurred in the New Testament and is reported in Luke 10: 38-42.  You see, there were two sisters named Martha and Mary, who were friends of Jesus.  They decided to open their home to Jesus and give him a place where others could come to meet HIM.   Since they were expecting company, Martha was busy preparing; you know doing the whole cooking and cleaning thing.   Definitely the right action when you are having a house full of people, right?   Well Martha’s sister, Mary decided to not help her sister, but instead sat at the feet of JESUS, just spending time with HIM and listening to what HE said.   Finally, Martha couldn’t take it anymore.  I can just picture Martha exasperated with her apron on, hair a bit disheveled and a little bit of flour on her chin barging into the room and saying…

“Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

Jesus then looks at her and responds.

“…Martha, Martha…you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Did you catch that?   Even though it seemed like Martha was doing the right thing, working and taking care of the needs of all of those in her house, Jesus makes it clear that what HE really wanted was to just spend time with HIS friends.

How about you?   Are you spending time with JESUS?   Are you taking time out of every day to just sit at HIS feet, to  read HIS word, to listen to HIS voice or are you too busy  doing those “things” that seem like they are the right “things” to do?  Are you too busy serving to just sit at HIS feet and “love on HIM”?   Now don’t get me wrong, I am NOT advocating that we shouldn’t work.   I am instead encouraging you to take some time EVERY day to just spend with JESUS.   Remember, Jesus loved you so much that HE preferred to be beaten, tortured, crucified on a cross, buried in a tomb and risen from the grave than to be separated from you for eternity.    How do you feel about HIM today?   Do you love HIM enough to sit at HIS feet, just like Mary, even when there are other “important things” all around us demanding our attention?

I encourage you, even right now, to just stop what you are doing and spend some time together with the LORD.   I guarantee you won’t regret it!

Windstorm…

Last week, we experienced a  major “pop up” thunder storm.   The thing that made this storm so scary was not just the speed with which the storm came up (I guess that’s why they call it a “pop up” thunderstorm) but the fierce winds which were a part of this storm.    Seeing the sky turn from a light blue to a dark, greenish-gray color in a matter of minutes was terrifying, but then came the relentless winds which were blowing with such a fierce severity that we saw trees bending looking like some type of “dance gone wrong”.  Trees literally began to tilt under the powerful gusts of the wind, limbs were snapping off, tops of trees shearing off, and leaves were blowing everywhere all because of some wind.    These winds were so severe that they even knocked out our power!   It is amazing that something you can’t even see could be so powerful and do so much damage in such a short amount of time.

As we were sitting in the dark watching the trees undulating frantically in the wind, it reminded me of a story from the Old Testament which speaks of a storm that the prophet Elijah faced.  The account is told in 1Kings 19:9–17.   You see, prior to this portion of scripture the prophet Elijah goes up against the prophets of baal (a false god) and WINS!   He is then faced with a threat from the evil queen and runs to a cave to hide in fear for his life.   While Elijah is hiding in the cave, he hears God speak to him!

…And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave…

As loud and as terrifying and as powerful as that wind may have been, Elijah knew that was not the Lord speaking to him.  However, once he heard that “gentle whisper“, that still small voice, Elijah had no doubt that it was the voice of GOD speaking to HIM and he responded.   That tells me that Elijah knew the voice of GOD!   I believe that the only way you can know the voice of GOD in the storms of life, are if you have learned what HIS voice sounds like in the calm days.   Learning to hear the voice of the LORD clearly is something that happens over time and comes from having a relationship with the LORD and responding in obedience to what HE tells you.

In this account from the Old Testament, we also see Elijah’s reaction to hearing GOD speak to him.   He not only humbled himself before the LORD but he then began to step out in obedience to do what the LORD had spoken to him.

How about you?   Are you listening for the “gentle whisper” of the Lord in your life?   Do you know HIS voice?  What is HE speaking to you?   Are you focused on the wind storms of this life or are you listening to that “gentle whisper” of GOD?   Are you willing to obey the “gentle whisper” of the LORD to you today?

I encourage you take a step back from all of the “wind storms”, noise and confusion of this life and listen carefully for the “gentle whisper” of the Lord.

–Stephen

olympians…

The 2012 Olympics, to be held in London, are quickly approaching.  Some of my favorite athletes such as: Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps, Allyson Felix, Tyson Gay, and Jordyn Wieber have been competing at the United States Olympic Trials for spots to represent the U.S.A. in London. This year I noticed something which in previous years I had not taken such specific note of… flashback video clips.

Earlier this week, I caught the men’s swimming trials on television and watched as they aired a flashback clip of Michael Phelps setting the world record as Phelps was being announced for that particular race during this year’s trials.  Such a flashback caused me to wonder whether the athletes ever have their own mental flashbacks of events or former Olympic athletes and their feats to encourage them to be strong and courageous and endure.

This reminded me of Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the [A]uthor and [P]erfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (NASB).  A flashback is appropriate right about here…

In the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, immediately preceding these verses, is a “hall of recall”, so to speak.  It recalls some of the most well noted olympians of faith.  Hebrews 11 recalls Abel’s and Enoch’s and Noah’s remarkable faith, depicts the “faith races” of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and reminds us of the water-moving, nation-delivering faith of Moses.  After mentioning Rahab’s death-escaping faith, Hebrews 11:31-32 begins to conclude this “hall of recall” by declaring, “And what more shall I say?  For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets…” (NASB).

WOW!  “For time will fail me…”!  The New Living Translation puts it this way, “It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith…” (Heb. 11:32).  When we are experiencing a trial of our faith’s strength, courage, and endurance, would we run out of time (let alone even think to take the time in the first place) if we began to recall the olympians of the faith and recount the trials they have courageously endured by the strength of their faith?

More so, let us not miss the  m o s t  important thread which holds this entire passage together ─ that it is not about the testimony of just any faith, but of a particular, transcendent faith IN GOD and FROM GOD!

When it feels like we are growing weary and losing heart, we should recall the stories of the faith of those who have raced before us.  Recount the testimonies of those who have heard and have understood that the Lord is the Everlasting God who never grows weary or weak and that He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless by faith (Isaiah 40:28-29, NLT).  Ultimately we need to remember that such faith is from Him who IS the Author and Perfecter of OUR faith!

“[C]onsider Him who endured…so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:3, HCSB).

Victoria