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Is my pastor starving?

Pastoring can be very lonely. Especially in small congregations, some pastors have more critics than cheerleaders and every little morsel of encouragement brightens their day. Ask the Lord to show you a way to bless your pastors. Remember, we don’t always reap WHERE we sow, but we do reap WHAT we sow (Gal.6:7-9). Next time you’re tempted to complain and criticize, double a blessing for your pastors instead. Show them your love in a way that does not impose on their time. Do something for them and expect nothing in return. After all, “It is more blessed to GIVE than to receive.”

 “And now, friends, we ask you to honor those leaders who work so hard for you, who have been given the responsibility of urging and guiding you along in your obedience. Overwhelm them with appreciation and love!” (1 Thess.5:12-13. And make sure this letter gets read to all the brothers and sisters. Don’t leave anyone out. The amazing grace of Jesus Christ be with you! (1 Thess.5:27-28, Msg).

It is rare to hear a parishioner say, “My pastor is starving.” On the flip side of the coin, how many times have we church-going folks say: “I’m starving.” “I’m not being fed.”

These comments are not new. Thousands of years ago God chose Moses to lead His people. Even though they were headed for a land of freedom and prosperity, they balked and complained that they weren’t been fed properly. 

WHY CAN’T WE HAVE MEAT?

“Now the mixed multitude…yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: ‘Who will give us meat to eat?’” (Num.11:4, NKJV).

Another version says, “Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt, and the people of Israel also began to complain. ‘Oh, for some meat!’ they exclaimed” (NLT). The Message paraphrases this same verse: “The riff-raff among the people had a craving and soon they had the People of Israel whining.”

The mixed multitude was literally a great rabble, or riff-raff, who had come along with the Israelites as they escaped Egypt. Obviously they conjectured that if they hid themselves in the huge throng of God’s people they would also inherit His promises. After all, they had been in the crowd of more than a million Israelites when the Red Sea parted and they crossed over on dry land. They saw Pharaoh’s army swallowed up as the waters came back together.

The Red Sea miracle wet their appetite. They had seen other miracles, yet they became disgruntled and bitter because of days of mundane meals in a dry place. They gave no credit to God for supernaturally supplying them with an adequate source of food in a desert where no animals roamed and no plants grew. Nevertheless, their discontent was infectious and soon even the most devout among the Israelites were agreeing with them. “Nothing tastes good out here,” they said. “All we get is manna, manna, manna” (Num.11:6). “We want meat!”

They were not grumbling about their announced destination but rather about not getting their favorite meals along the way. The manna God sent them daily contained the necessary nutrients for them to eat and stay healthy. They didn’t have to work for it—neither to plant it nor harvest it. All they had to do was gather it each morning.

Isn’t this the way it is with us today? We lose sight of our destination—heaven—and complain about the spiritual food. It reminds me of one Christmas when my daughter was a toddler. She dreamed of getting a bride doll and talked about it incessantly for weeks before the holidays. I purchased lace and satin, cut and sewed, and turned a doll into a gorgeous bride. After she went to bed on Christmas Eve, my husband and I placed the new toy table and chairs from her grandmother under the tree and positioned the bride doll at the table. There! We thought. Our little girl will be so thrilled when she sees her dream has come true.

How wrong we were! Caroline came bouncing down the stairs on Christmas morning, but before reaching the bottom step she glanced into the room and saw the table and the bride doll. Immediately she began to cry and ran back upstairs to her room. Totally confused by her actions, I went to her room to hear her repeating over and over through her sobs: “My gifts are supposed to be wrapped up!” 

God’s manna did not come wrapped up. It was readily available, but it no longer held any mystique. The daily provision had become routine—they were not content to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” In fact, they already had daily bread. What was readily available did not fulfill their wants. They were selfishly expecting Moses to provide them meat. When He didn’t, “they all whined in front of their tents” (Num.11:10).

Lord, help us, but the same is often true of us believers. We spend more time complaining and whining about not being “fed” than we do in consuming the “Bread of Life” in whatever way it comes to us. A spiritual meal may come from routine teaching of the pastor in one service after another, or a Bible class, or a small group meeting. It may come from the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, or the teacher. More often it comes directly from God Himself, as we sit quietly before Him meditating upon His Word. However it comes, we must gather it and feed it to ourselves.

Nevertheless, in our humanness, we are more excited about the spiritual food desserts: the great miracles or passionate encounters with others who are “cheerleaders” in the Kingdom. It’s not really meat of the Word that we desire, but Paul says, “You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food – catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

Are we selfish like children—demanding the food we want. Few children would choose vegetables and fruit; rather they beg for ice cream and cake. I wonder if this is not equivalent to the demand the Israelites made for “meat” and Paul’s contemporaries who chased after empty emotional experiences rather than spiritual ones.

WHY MEAT?

God told Moses to call the people together and “Tell the people…You’ve been whining to God, ‘We want meat; give us meat.’ God has heard your whining and he’s going to give you meat. You’re going to eat meat. And it’s not just for a day that you’ll eat meat, and not two days, or five or ten or twenty, but for a whole month. You’re going to eat meat until its coming out your nostrils. You’re going to be so sick of meat that you’ll throw up at the mere mention of it. And here’s why: Because you have rejected God who is right here among you…”(Vs.18-20).

God was present with them—the all powerful, all knowing, ever present God. He would withhold nothing good from them—yet they were craving something outside the realm of “good.”  They demanded “flesh.” He was giving them “daily bread.” Using the flesh to satisfy our hunger will always result in death—death of a dream, death of a marriage, death of our spiritual life, or death—plain and simple! Who among us can grasp that God knows what is best for us? That man will be satisfied with God!

When we have God’s presence in our lives, we have everything we need—for He is our ALL in ALL. Only His Presence can satisfy our craving; not even God’s gifts can fulfill that hunger. That’s why even though we see miracles, participate in awesome worship services, live in prosperity and good health, we still have a craving, a yearning, a demand for more. We think we need MEAT; however, our appetite for meat is a mere substitute for allowing Christ—the Bread of Heaven to consume us.

Truly as mature Christians we hunger for more of Christ in us, thus we relinquish control to Him over each area of our heart, our mind, our will, our emotions. But this comes about by our one-on-one relationship with Him—not as a result of being fed by the pastor at church services.

HOW  DID PASTOR MOSES FEEL?

Did anyone ever ask how Moses must have felt with these complaining people nagging him all day every day? God had entrusted to him leadership in the largest congregation ever assembled, and he was totally frustrated—as are many pastors today. 

“Moses said to God, ‘What did I ever do to you to deserve this? Did I conceive these people? Was I their mother? So why dump the responsibility of this people on me? Why tell me to carry them around like a nursing mother, carry them all the way to the land you promised to their ancestors? Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people who are whining to me…If this is how you intend to treat me, do me a favor and kill me. I’ve seen enough; I’ve had enough. Let me out of here’” (vs.10-15).

This prayer is being prayed all across the United States and around the world by pastors of congregations large and small. Some are leaving the ministry—ill-equipped to handle all the whining and complaining. Many take this as rejection of them personally and throw in the towel. Some change jobs—never to realize their fulfillment in being faithful to the call of God on their lives. Others fall into tragic moral failure; sadly, some even commit suicide.

Who is to blame for these heartbreaking turns in the lives of some pastors? The people who grumble and complain? No—but perhaps they could have helped encourage the pastors rather than tear them down. Perhaps they could have spent more time on their knees praying for the pastors rather than spreading their discontent among other congregants.

But pastors, like Moses, need to go to the Lord in prayer and to the Holy counseling book and receive His counsel—remembering Who gave them their assignment in the first place. Nevertheless, as members of various congregations, we could do much to encourage, build up, and feed our pastors. 

Jesus told Peter, “Feed my sheep?” Yes—and God told Moses, “Lead my people.” However, the people didn’t like the food or the direction the pastors were taking. Peter says: Clean house! Get rid of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God” (1 Pet.2:1-3). Every church will have followers of Christ who are in all stages of spiritual growth—from infancy to maturity. As mature ones, we are patient with the young ones who need to feed on milk; we do not demand that we be fed instead of them. As a matter of fact, we know how to feed ourselves and no longer require being fed on demand—though we appreciate the help when we’re in distress.

FEED YOUR PASTOR

Pastors rarely make a public announcement about their needs—probably because they feel they are there to help the people not to put a burden on them. But how many of us recognize the pastors’ need for food in the form of affirmation and encouragement? The Lord told Moses, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.” We see this promise carried out through Moses’ lifetime (Study the book of Exodus) and I believe it is still a prophetic promise for us today.

Yes, our pastors will fail if they don’t have a vital relationship with the Lord, but so will we. They cannot depend on the people in the congregation to fill that need, nor can we. Indeed the Apostle Paul faced a court hearing with not even one person there to support him, but listen to his testimony: “At my preliminary hearing no one stood by me. They all ran like scared rabbits. But it doesn’t matter—the Master stood by me and helped me spread the Message loud and clear to those who had never heard it. I was snatched from the jaws of the lion! God’s looking after me, keeping me safe in the kingdom of heaven. All praise to him, praise forever! Oh, yes!” (From 2 Tim.4).

In spite of Paul’s spiritual strength and determination, he lets us know that he longed for companionship and helpers—to affirm and assist him. He says to Timothy: Get here as fast as you can…Bring Mark with you; he’ll be my right-hand man…Bring the winter coat I left in Troas with Carpus; also the books and parchment notebooks. Watch out for Alexander the coppersmith. Fiercely opposed to our Message, he caused no end of trouble. God will give him what he’s got coming” (From 2 Tim. 4). Is this not what God told Moses? “I will curse them who curse you!”

One of the lessons Jesus taught in the parable of the talents was affirmation: To those who were faithful, He commended them with words we all desire to hear: “Good work! You did your job well” (Matt.25:21). Jesus didn’t comment on the little details and find ways to point out their faults or how He disagreed with some things they might have done—He commended them. It’s a two-way street: the pastors need to affirm their people and the people need to encourage their pastors.

Throughout three decades of ministry, like most pastors, my husband and I experienced both the ire and the love of God’s people. Some were faithful to the end and are still lovingly and prayerfully bonded, but the love of others was short-lived. People came into the church fellowship, gave both public and written commitments to be by our side forever, then in a flash they were gone. Some stayed a few weeks; others a few months; some worshipped and worked with us for years before moving on. 

Of those who moved, some were geographically transferred, some bowed out gracefully, some created a mountain out of a molehill, and some attempted to invoke a major takeover. In my opinion, all were there for a season, for a purpose. Only God knows whether or not that purpose was fulfilled. We were not in the ministry to be affirmed by people but to be approved by God, yet the accolades of our brothers and sisters played a huge roll in encouraging us—often in times of near despair. 

There were always people in our lives who cared deeply about us and our family. There were several dear ones who seemed to be listening for me to say, “I really like that!” so they could run out and get it for me. During my husband’s illness, some dear sisters came and cleaned our house and even washed the curtains. There were those who dropped off my husband’s favorite food dishes—just at the time they were needed. Some brought groceries and home canned goods from time to time. Some volunteered to work at the church to do many and varied tasks throughout the week. Some precious saints worked in our house—painting, building, remodeling. And the list goes on. The Apostle Paul calls all of these “labors of love” (1 Thess.1:3).

In one church, a family brought to the pastor’s office a fresh rose every Sunday morning. Some people are especially eloquent with words and write poems, prayers, and thank you notes to the pastor on days other than birthdays, holidays, and pastor appreciation days.

There are many ways to feed your pastors with love, encouragement, and affirmation so that when they’re being bombarded by whiners and complainers and their own sense of inadequacy, the Lord will use your good deeds to remind them of His love.

Pastoring can be very lonely. Most pastors have more critics than cheerleaders and every little morsel of encouragement brightens their day. Ask the Lord to show you a way to bless your pastors. Remember, we don’t always reap WHERE we sow, but we do reap WHAT we sow. Next time you’re tempted to complain and criticize, double that blessing for your pastors instead. Show them your love in a way that does not impose on their time. Do something for them and expect nothing in return. After all, “It is more blessed to GIVE than to receive.”

And now, friends, we ask you to honor those leaders who work so hard for you, who have been given the responsibility of urging and guiding you along in your obedience. Overwhelm them with appreciation and love!” (1 Thess.5:12-13).

And make sure this letter gets read to all the brothers and sisters. Don’t leave anyone out. The amazing grace of Jesus Christ be with you! (1 Thess.5:27-28).

Reprinted from The Alabaster Box, C. Yvonne Karl © Volume18 Number10 2003.

Yvonnekarl@gmail.com

If the Shoe Fits

A Word from Yvonne:

Isn’t it exciting that the Prince of Peace has chosen YOU!  All you have to do is accept His Peace. Believe me, it WILL fit!

A few months after my husband and I were married we attended a church convention where I was reunited with friends I hadn’t seen in a while. I was eager to “show off” my handsome husband. My hair was no longer red, but blond–in response to my husband’s request. (Doesn’t the Bible say the wife should seek to please her husband? See Eph 5:22: Wives, be submissive and adapt yourselves to your own husbands as a service to the Lord.)  Although I had not seen him for four or five years, a pastor, whom I had known most of my life and was very dear to me, was standing in the distance. I took my husband’s arm and rushed toward him expecting the pastor to throw out his arms and receive me with joy. Instead, I was stopped cold. He saw me. He stared at me. He asked whether I was me or my sister and when I gave him MY name, he spit on the ground in front of me and turned away from me.  He asked me no questions. He gave me no opportunity to introduce my husband. I was too stunned to pursue him and attempt conversation. That was the last time I ever saw him. His problem? He had judged me to be an outcast from the church because I had changed my hair color. It was more than he could handle. Did it hurt me? Of course. Did I forgive him? Yes and yes again!   Scriptural truths must of necessity be followed; however, man’s opinions often separate even good friends. I realized the problem and knew that my loyalty relative to man’s opinions had to be to my husband and not to another man. Peace came….and stayed in my MIND and my heart!

Many, many people have written songs, stories, poems, and books about being chosen by our Lord Jesus. What a special privilege to have the Prince of Peace invite you to wear His shoes!  It’s THE Kingdom of Peace–and it’s within you!

ON COURAGE

“So you think I’m courageous?” she asked

“Yes, I do.

Perhaps I am. But that’s because I’ve had some inspiring teachers. I’ll tell you about one of them. Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at Stanford Hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liza who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her five-year-old brother who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes, I’ll do it if it will save Liza.”

As the transfusion progressed, he lay in a bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?” Being young, the boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give her all his blood.

  “Yes, I’ve learned courage,” she added, “because I’ve had good teachers.”

( -By Dan Millman from Chicken Soup for the Soul  Copyright 1993 by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen)

CONSIDER THE PREPARATION OF PEACE IN THE WORDS AND STORY BEHIND THE FOLLOWING HYMN:

“I BELONG TO THE KING”

1) I belong to the King, I’m a child of His love,
I shall dwell in His palace so fair;
For He tells of its bliss in yon heaven above,
And His children in splendor shall share.

Chorus:
I belong to the King, I’m a child of His love,
And he never forsaketh His own;
He will call me some day to His palace above,
I shall dwell by His glorified throne.

2) I belong to the King, and He loves me I know,
For His mercy and kindness, so free,
Are unceasingly mine wheresoever I go,
And my refuge unfailing is He. (Chorus)

3) I belong to the King, and His promise is sure,
That we all shall be gathered at last
In His kingdom above, by life’s waters so pure,
When this life with its trials is past. (Chorus)

(Words by Ida L. Reed. Music by Maurice A Clifton)  

THE STORY BEHIND THE HYMN

“I Belong to the King” was literally beaten out of a humble life by the flail of burdensome trials and afflictions. Ida L. Reed, author of the hymn, rightly deserved to sing “I belong to the King.” She was born and reared in the mountains of West Virginia. Her life was one long, continuous burden-bearing journey. For many years she was compelled to do heavy and arduous work [common] to farm life. This she did in support of an invalid and widowed mother. 

Broken at last by the strenuous toil and privations, she was sorely afflicted and bed-ridden for years. Even then, in her hours of pain, she wrote poems for publishers to eke out a meager living. She was removed to a hospital in Washington, D. C., as a last resort, in the hope of prolonging her pain-wracked, yet beautiful life. From her hospital bed of pain, she wrote the words of this poem which came to be a hymn of the church.

“I Belong to the King” is a golden nugget from the mine of character of one of God’s most humble children. For, as often the most beautiful flowers grow in inconspicuous places, so from the inner garden of one of the least of the children of the Lord there comes this flower of thought… 

(Taken from Forty Gospel Hymn Stories by George W. Sanville, 1943, p. 56.)

“She hath done what she could…” [Mark 14:8]

HE CHOSE ME

There were so many others that He might have chosen To follow Him;
Others with learning and greater distinction To follow Him;
Men with authority and forceful ability
Who know how to speak and be heard.
I don’t know exactly why I’m here at all,
But today I follow my Lord.

It was bus’ness as usual for me ‘til I heard Him say, “Follow me.”
I left all behind me that day when Jesus said, “Follow Me.”
I emptied myself of my old life completely
With no thought that this could be wrong
And as long as I follow the steps of the Master,
I know I’m where I belong.

For He chose me.
He chose me;
I could not say no when He said,
“Follow me and you’ll be a fisher of men.”
And from now on … From now on
I will not look back on the things left behind;
He chose me to follow Him.

No, I will not look back on the things left behind;
He chose me to follow Him.

(-Author and composer unknown. If any reader knows the author and composer please contact The Alabaster Box so we can give proper credit Thank you.)

______________________________

(c) C. Yvonne Karl. The Alabaster Box. Vol 14 No 05 & 06. 2000. 

yvonnekarl@gmail.com

IF THE SHOE FITS – MFC CONFERENCE – 2000

(c) C. Yvonne Karl. The Alabaster Box. Vol 14 No 05 & 06. 2000.

The article above and all three parts below are from the Maranatha Fellowship Women’s Conference in 2000. All are on this website: http://yvonnekarl.com or you can click on the link following each part:

Part 1 – There is a Shoe that Fits (c) Yvonne Karl – https://yvonnekarl.com/2019/06/28/there-is-a-shoe-that-fits/

Part 2 – Does the Shoe fit? (c) Virginia Wright; UBP – https://yvonnekarl.com/2019/06/28/does-the-shoe-fit/

Part 3 – If the Shoe Fits – (c) Yvonne Karl – https://yvonnekarl.com/2019/06/28/if-the-shoe-fits/

Does the Shoe fit?

by Virginia Ruth Wright (1999)

Once upon a time there was a daughter who had been abused and used by the world. Those she was living around would give her commands, “Clean that fireplace; sweep that floor; cook that meal.” The world had rubbed her the wrong way long enough. Disgust was rising up within her. She was tired of the world and the things in the world. In the midst of her great disappointment, depression and discouragement, a great invitation was sent out:

“Go into the highway and hedges and compel them to come in; the lame, the halt, the blind, that my house may be full.”

A little stir started in the corner of her heart. “That sounds like a great celebration.” She asked herself, “What will I wear?” Her friend of the world began to laugh. “What makes you think He was inviting you? You are not good enough to go. Here. Press our clothes. We have what it takes to get in among the religious folk. We will be recognized at the great celebration.”

She did as they said and self-pity and rejection began to play on the strings of her heart. Suddenly, she heard a whisper: “Put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…let everything that has breath, praise the Lord.” Her spirit began to rise within her. She started to say, “Bless the Lord, oh my soul and all that is within me bless His holy name.” The darkness and gloom fell from her face and her mind. He dressed her in clothes of righteousness. He shod her feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace. She was ready for the great celebration.

Sunday came and Grace picked her up to take her to the great celebration. When she arrived, the Prince of Peace met her at the door and said, “Come, dance with me.” Her heart leaped within her, as she celebrated with the Love of her life. She had a glorious time and then the prince of the power of the air was upset with her excitement and joy over meeting the Prince of Peace. Satan wanted her to go back to her old life and live in self-pity and rejection. He started attacking her mind, “Flee from here, you look foolish; you are going to die. What you are experiencing isn’t real!”  Her mind was about to explode. 

She hurriedly turned and ran from the celebration. Running down the steps of time, back to the old life, she lost one of her slippers, the shoe of the preparation of the gospel of peace. Confusion and doubt flooded her mind. She realized she had lost one of her shoes. Now back in the harassment of worldly associates, she was being put down by their ugly and devilish comments, but she still had a little peace and a little joy.     

She slipped away into her secret closet. As she wept, she studied her one clear shoe. The words came through to her spirit, “We see through a glass darkly, but one day we shall see Him face to face.” Mercy came running and hope filled her soul. Outside the door, she could hear the Prince of Peace. He had been talking to her worldly associates. “If this shoe fits, you can wear it. It is yours… “My peace I give you not as the world gives, do I give…My peace I leave with you.”  

One by one they rejected His word. By choice, they chose not to try the shoe. She thought He was about to leave. She stood up to run to Him and say, “That’s my shoe I want to wear it. I want your peace and love and joy in my life.” She put her hand on the doorknob and opened the door. He was there, the prince of peace. He took her in His arms and said, “My mercy is new this morning.” She sat down. He knelt down and slipped the shoe on her foot. The shoe fit perfectly. Peace began to flood her soul. Mocking and laughing were all around, but she walked in the midst of it with the Prince of Peace and took the Gospel of Peace with her everywhere, celebrating with joy… and showing off her shoes.

 The End.

______________________

IF THE SHOE FITS – MFC WOMEN’S CONFERENCE – 2000                                 

Maranatha Fellowship Church – St Albans WV                                                                                                                                   (Check out the “shoe” name tag!)

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(c) C. Yvonne Karl. The Alabaster Box. Vol 14 No 05 & 06. 2000. 

yvonnekarl@gmail.com

IF THE SHOE FITS – MFC CONFERENCE – 2000

 

(c) C. Yvonne Karl. The Alabaster Box. Vol 14 No 05 & 06. 2000.

The article above and all three parts below are from the Maranatha Fellowship Women’s Conference in 2000. All are on this website: http://yvonnekarl.com or you can click on the link following each part:

Part 1 – There is a Shoe that Fits (c) Yvonne Karl – https://yvonnekarl.com/2019/06/28/there-is-a-shoe-that-fits/

Part 2 – Does the Shoe fit? (c) Virginia Wright; UBP –  https://yvonnekarl.com/2019/06/28/does-the-shoe-fit/

Part 3 – If the Shoe Fits – (c) Yvonne Karl –  https://yvonnekarl.com/2019/06/28/if-the-shoe-fits/

THERE IS A SHOE THAT FITS!

How many people do you know who buy and wear shoes that don’t fit? There are many reasons for this. My late husband confessed to me that as a young adult he bought shoes a size too small because he thought it somehow unfitting for a man to have a big foot. (He only wore a size ten!) 

I must admit I have many confessions on selecting the wrong shoes. I used to think one should never buy shoes that felt comfortable because they would stretch with wear and become uncomfortable. For years I walked in shoes that pinched my toes!  I recall, at 16, walking barefoot down the streets of Philadelphia with my shoes in hand and blisters on my feet.  Did you ever try to wear someone else’s shoes? I remember, as a 12-year old, begging and pleading with my mother to wear her ankle-strap, two-inch-high wedgies on an all-day orchestra and dinner with my sixth grade class. Reluctantly, she agreed. My joy lasted but a short time.  My sore feet went without shoes most of that day!

SHOES THAT NEVER WEAR OUT?

Can you imagine a pair of shoes that not only fit and feel comfortable but that don’t wear out for 40 years? If your feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, you have shoes that will never get old. They’ll keep you from slipping and sliding through whatever comes into your WALK of life. The Lord told His people in Deuteronomy 29:5: I have led you forty years in the wilderness; your clothes have not worn out upon you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet. The Lord wants you to wear these symbolic kingdom shoes. They will last forever! 

GOOD NEWS!  THERE IS A SHOE THAT FITS!

And having shod your feet in preparation [to face the enemy with the firm-footed stability, the promptness and the readiness produced by the good news] of the Gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15, Amplified).

The word  “shod” simply means “having shoes on.” The shoes referred to in this passage of scripture are the military sandals of the Roman private soldiers and centurions. They were made of very strong leather, and the soles were thickly studded with hobnails in order to give a sure footing. Thus Christian soldiers, having the gospel as a sure footing, can stand firmly against the attacks of their spiritual foes.

Michaeis says, “Barefooted was a term of reproach and probably signified a man who had sold everything, a spendthrift and a bankrupt.” The prodigal son certainly fits this description’ When he came back to his father’s house, shoes were put on his feet (Luke 15:2). Obviously, this was symbolic of the son’s departure from his corrupt and perverted ways (barefoot, shoeless). Now he needed preparation to walk firmly in his new life–the shoes would give him “sure footing.”

When the angel came to bust Peter out of prison, he said Gird thyself and bind on thy sandals (Acts 12:8)…Fasten them. Be sure they aren’t just slipped on or they’ll fall off.

Peter had been sleeping in prison, but now he had to get back into the firing line of ministering in the kingdom. He must not slip nor fall. He must prepare for battle knowing that “peace” comes to those who are prepared for any and all circumstances of life.

When you face life’s everyday challenges, it is imperative that you wear shoes that will protect you from gravel, tar, hot pavement, fires, forests, marsh, nasty weather–you name it! You need to have assurance that you will have PEACE as you travel through these various situations. The shoes PREPARE you for peace. You know they will protect you from the thorns and briars; therefore your mind is at peace.  

THE KEY WORD IS PREPARATION

The footwear of the Christian soldier is suggested by Isaiah 52:7: How beautiful are the feet of him that brings good tidings…that publishes peace. (See also Romans 10:15.)  The gospel of peace is itself “the equipment” which the warrior wears. There is something paradoxical in presenting the warrior in the midst of battle:  equipped with the gospel of peace. To establish peace of God in your heart—you must do battle against the spiritual evil which disturbs that peace.

When I was about ten years of age, I desired to go play in my neighbor’s yard because she had made a nice playhouse tent over her fence. My mother said “no;” but I knew she was busy with her baking and probably wouldn’t miss me, so I decided to sneak over to my friend’s house just to take a peek inside her tent. However, I did not prepare ahead. I did not think. I went barefoot and stepped on a tent peg that pierced my foot. Now, not only did I have a bleeding, gaping hole in my foot, I would have to face my mother knowing I had rebelled. I had not PREPARED FOR PEACE!

You don’t go ice skating on roller blades.

You don’t go hiking in sandals.

You don’t play football in house slippers.

Yet, spiritually, you’ve been trying it… getting hurt… blaming God and others. 

Everywhere you walk, God has made provision for you to have the “good news of peace.”  Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105).

CHANGING SHOES

When changing your shoes, be sure you always wear the same brand: the Word of God!  Don’t borrow advice or preparation tactics from the world. There is a way which seems right to man but the end thereof is death (Proverbs 14:12, 16:25).  Get the scriptural shoe that FITS the situation.

For example, Are you tired? Weary? Rejoice! He gives power to the faint and weary, and to him who has no might, He increases strength–causing it to multiply and making it abound (Isaiah 40:29; 2 Corinthians 12:9). The battle is won or lost in the mind. Just think of Him who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself–reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials–so that you may NOT GROW WEARY or EXHAUSTED, losing heart and relaxing and fainting IN YOUR MINDS (Hebrews 12:1-3, Amplified; Isaiah 40:29-31).  This shoe will fit!

Here’s another description of the shoe that fits: And let the peace which comes from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts–deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds … and be thankful, appreciative, giving praise to God always (Colossians 3:15, Amplified). Let the peace of Christ determine your mindset. Don’t let panic rule you. Don’t let hysteria rule you. Don’t let emotions rule you. Don’t let feelings rule you. Don’t let your circumstances determine your state of mind. Let the Word of God dwell in you richly in all wisdom…(Colossians 3:16), and allow what the WORD of God says to determine your state of mind–how you deal with the circumstances you are going through.

ONE APPLICATION OF THE SCRIPTURE:

PREPARING FOR PEACE IN MARRIAGE AFTER STARTING OFF ON THE WRONG FOOT

 

My husband and I did not consummate our marriage until after our wedding took place, but out of many years of experience in counseling I know that one of the major reasons marriages in the United States are troubled and often end in divorce is due to premarital intimacy. Even people who are believers often fall into the trap. It grieves me to see couples, even in the Christian ministry, who are still bitter about their spouse’s actions toward them before marriage. What a hindrance it is to their work in the kingdom! 

If you and your spouse had an intimate relationship before you were married, you need to ask each other and God for forgiveness for allowing it to happen (even if it is now years later). God holds you both accountable for your actions.  The consequence of not dealing with this sin openly is that each secretly blames the other. When verbal forgiveness is neither sought nor given, each (perhaps subconsciously) makes the other suffer for it. The idea is conveyed either by words or body language: “Don’t touch me.” “I don’t feel like it now; after all, you got it before you were supposed to so now you’ll just have to do without.”  “How can I trust you not to do it again with someone else?” “You think you can be a Christian, a role model, a leader after what you did? I can never respect you.”

Without realizing it, the couple has not prepared for peace but war. And war it is! So what to do now? God’s Word comes to our rescue. The gospel shoes you need are those of “forgiveness.”  Jesus taught us to pray to the Father to forgive us our debts (sins, faults, trespasses, shortcomings, wrongdoing) as we forgive others theirs (Matthew  6:12; 18:35; Mark 11:26; James 2:13). You need to sit down together and share your failure to keep under [your] body and bring it into subjection lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway  (1 Cor. 9:27).  A “castaway” is someone who has experienced God but chosen not to sacrifice self to have a relationship with Him. Ask for forgiveness. Thank each other for asking and receiving that forgiveness. Pray together thanking God for forgiving you as you have forgiven each other (Matt. 6:12). Now it is your responsibility to become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted [compassionate, understanding, loving], forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32, Amplified). 

Now you are PREPARED for peace! You are able to WALK together having your FEET SHOD with the PREPARATION of the gospel of peace. You can pray for each other without guile or resentment. You can share your failures and successes with each other without hypocrisy knowing you will be loved and accepted. You can encourage one another through all the difficulties of life, against all the enemies that come against you.

This principle of forgiveness works in ALL situations where there has been a break in relationships due to ungodly behavior. What if the other person is not receptive to this scriptural approach to PREPARATION for PEACE? Then your own heart is cleansed and free from guilt because you have asked for forgiveness and extended it to the other. 

OTHER LIFE APPLICATIONS? Write to me. 

Space does not permit me to give examples of the other symbolic scriptural shoes you must wear to face the enemies of life. Most Bibles have a Concordance or Index in the back that lists where you can find certain words in Scripture. Look up a word that has to do with your circumstance and read all the scriptures listed with it. Ask the Lord to show you how to deal with it so that you may be PREPARED for PEACE.

If you wish to write to me about a situation, I shall do my best to respond with the scriptural approach to dealing with it so you can have peace in your life–even in the midst of the storm.  The “peace” that is talked about in scripture is the peace in your heart–down inside you–which no man can take from you no matter what happens. That’s the peace that passes all understanding and keeps your heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). MyPeace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27).

REMEMBER:  God’s Word is your PREPARATION for peace. Be certain your feet are WALKING in THE WORD!

 

(c) C. Yvonne Karl. The Alabaster Box. Vol 14 No 05 & 06. 2000. 

yvonnekarl@gmail.com

IF THE SHOE FITS – MFC WOMEN’S CONFERENCE – 2000

 

(c) C. Yvonne Karl. The Alabaster Box. Vol 14 No 05 & 06. 2000.

The article above and all three parts below are from the Maranatha Fellowship Women’s Conference in 2000. All are on this website: http://yvonnekarl.com or you can click on the link following each part:

Part 1 – There is a Shoe that Fits (c) Yvonne Karl – https://yvonnekarl.com/2019/06/28/there-…a-shoe-that-fits/

Part 2 – Does the Shoe fit? (c) Virginia Wright; UBP. https://yvonnekarl.com/2019/06/28/does-the-shoe-fit/

Part 3 – If the Shoe Fits – (c) Yvonne Karl –  https://yvonnekarl.com/2019/06/28/if-the-shoe-fits/

Clouds are the Dust of God’s Feet: Nahum 1:3c

One of my favorite high school teachers was the late Mr. Robert Burke. His influence on my life went far beyond that of being my ninth grade Biology teacher. He showed genuine interest in my abilities and ambitions. He set high academic standards and expected me to reach them. He pointed out errors on my exams with a smile. He served as faculty advisor to the Bible Club of which I was President in my junior year. In the final days of my senior year, I handed him my yearbook asking for his autograph. When I saw he wrote more than his name, I eagerly looked to see what wonderful words of commendation he had penned. To my consternation, I read: May there be just enough clouds in your life to create a beautiful sunset.

Up to that point, I viewed clouds and storms as companions, and I certainly didn’t want any storms in my life. For some time after this incident, I interpreted the message negatively and allowed his words to “cloud” our relationship. In the years that followed, I had many opportunities to meditate on the phrase “enough clouds in your life”.  Then one day as I was reading the Bible, I came across Nahum 1:3c: …the clouds are the dust of God’s feet. Hallelujah! Wherever there are clouds, GOD IS PRESENT!  Furthermore, I read in Scripture:

  • The Lord makes the clouds His chariot and rides on the wings of the wind (Ps. 104:3).
  • Sing to God, sing praise to His name, extol Him who rides on the clouds—His name is the Lord…(Ps. 68:4).
  • See, the Lord rides on a swift cloud…(Is. 19:1).

OLD TESTAMENT

We have many examples of God’s Presence in the clouds. When He called Moses to deliver the children of Israel from Egypt, the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud to lead them on the way (Ex.13:21). On a clear day, you can see forever and go where you want; but on a cloudy day you must walk by faith knowing that God is present to lead you in the way He wants you to go.

  • And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I come to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you and believe you forever…(Ex.19:9).
  • And the glory of the Lord abode on Mt. Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days; and the seventh day He called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud…and Moses went into the midst of the cloud, up to the Mountain (Ex.24:16,18).
  • And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses. And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door; and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door (Ex.33:9-10).

In the Old Testament, there are many references to the Presence of the Lord in the cloud: leading the children of Israel, guarding and protecting them, and giving them words of direction. In 1 Cor. 10:1-2, Paul referred to this when he wrote:  For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud [under God’s leadership and guidance—see also Exodus 13:21-22; Numbers 9:15-23; 14:14; Deuteronomy 1:33; Psalm 78:14] and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea [His guidance did not fail them—He successfully led them through the sea—Exodus 14:22,29] (NIV).

GOSPELS

Given this background, we should not be surprised to read that When Jesus was baptized, He went up at once out of the water, and behold, the heavens were opened, and he [John] saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on [Jesus]; and lo, a voice out from heaven said, This is my beloved Son, in Whom I delight (Matt 3:17).

Some time later, Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him up to the Mountain, and While [Peter] yet spoke, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear him (Matt. 17:5; Luke 9:34-35). This was God’s last speech from the clouds. After this incident, He spoke through His Son, and now He speaks by His Spirit through His Word.

REVELATION

One summer Sunday evening when I was 16 years old, my family was visiting with my grandparents on their estate in the open fields of Black Betsy. I heard someone gasp and say, “Look! There in the clouds!”  We all ran to the back porch and looked up to see “Jesus coming in the clouds.” The body shape we saw was a perfect duplicate of the artist’s rendition of “Jesus”.  He appeared to be walking straight toward us. We were all quite paralyzed by the sight. It seemed as if the Scripture were literally coming true at that moment:

  • Lo, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him…(Rev. 1:7).
  • He [Jesus] was taken up in a cloud before their very eyes…this same Jesus…will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven (Acts 1:9) 
  • And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory (Mark 13:26).
  • At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory (Matt. 24:30).
  • Yes, it is as you say, Jesus replied, But I say to all of you: in the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven (Matt. 26:64).
  • After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:17).

I thought my heart would burst within me. This was an intense moment of self-examination—no time for theological interpretation of Scripture. Even after the clouds separated and we realized this was not “THE END,” the moment of reckoning had its impact. It was a day never to be forgotten. God was out walking and we saw evidence in the clouds.

DISCERNING THE CLOUDS

When the trials of life press in on you, look up!  Do you see clouds? Remember that the Lord walks on them, rides on them, and raises them when He pleases. He stirs them up, and He causes them to disperse. 

There are two Greek words used in the New Testament that are translated “clouds”.

(1) Nephos denotes a cloudy shapeless mass covering the heavens, hence, metaphorically it is used to refer to a dense multitude, a throng, as in Hebrews 12:1:  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

(2) Nephele is a definitely shaped cloud, or masses of clouds possessing definite form. It is used (a) of the physical element of the “cloud” on the mount of transfiguration in Matt. 17:5, and (b) of the cloud which covered Israel in the Red Sea, 1 Cor. 10:1-2; (c) of clouds seen in the visions in the book of Revelation, Rev.1:7; 10:1; 11:12; 14:14-16; and (d) metaphorically in Jude 12, and in 2 Pet. 2:17, of the evil workers there mentioned (Vines Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words).

  • These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind…(Jude 12)
  • These men are springs without water and clouds [mists] driven by a storm…(gone before a drop of water falls) (2 Peter 2:17).

Some clouds that come bring neither beauty of sunset or sunrise, nor lovely blue skies. They bring neither rain or sleet, or snow; they are merely empty formless clouds called “fog”; they lay close to the ground and obstruct our view. In themselves, they are harmless, yet because of their presence many highway accidents occur. Often these are chain accidents—one loses his way and bumps into another, and so on. How much this scene relates metaphorically to spiritual “fog” as well. Sometimes this “fog” comes into our lives in the guise of people who lay close to us. They appear to be active and full of the Holy Spirit and living water, but soon we realize they are EMPTY—professing a form of godliness but denying the power of God to change lives. Their very presence has clouded our vision and our hope causing us to lose our grasp on spiritual reality. The sooner we realize the deception, the faster we’ll move out of the “fog” and back under the clouds that rise high above us.

Some clouds bring much needed precipitation into our lives. It’s the rain that brings life to the plants, trees, flowers, grass, and gardens. It’s the rain of the Spirit—fresh from on high—that brings growth to our Christian lives. Without it, we are parched and dry; drought takes its toll:

Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God (Heb. 6:7). 

CLOUD CLASSIFICATIONS

As we have seen by example in Scripture, not all clouds are the same. They have different shapes and different purposes. Cloudman’s Mini Cloud Atlas gives 12 Basic Cloud Classifications in four families. There is the HEAP Family consisting of Cumulus Congestus, Swelling Cumulus, and Cumulus of Fairweather.  There is the LAYER Family consisting of Cirrstratus, Altostratus, and Stratus. There is the HEAP/LAYER Family, consisting of Cirrocumulus, Altocumulus, and Stratocumulus. And finally, there is the PRECIPITATION FAMILY consisting of Cirrus, Cumulonimbus, and Nimbostratus. Each set of clouds has a description and a function. (To read more about these, go to http://www.cloudman.com). In addition to these categories, there are simply HIGH clouds, MEDIUM clouds, and LOW clouds.

All shapes. All sizes. Many descriptions. Many purposes. It is a relatively low percentage of clouds that brings storms, yet often we see clouds as carriers of negativity. Let’s get a fresh, new image of clouds. Look at them. Analyze them. How lovely is the sky with the little cloud puffs scattered about, or with the layers of clouds forming an ascending stairway to heaven, or with the heaps of clouds that appear to have golden light or silver linings. How welcome are the clouds that dump the precipitation on a dry and thirsty ground. Even after storm clouds have come and gone, there is the refreshing, cleansing smell of “life after the storm”. 

Now transfer this picture to situations that come into your everyday life. We all need some clouds in our life. We Michiganders understand this. In the winter, a cloudless sky means the nighttime temperatures will dip low. In the summer, a cloudless sky means there will be no nighttime relief from the sweltering temperatures. Thus, we welcome the clouds! Have you ever thought how boring, barren, and colorless your life would be without the challenge and/or gift of “cloudy” circumstances? We often think life would be perfect if we didn’t have to deal with the interruptions, solve the problems, resolve the conflicts, and receive the blessings. Yet these make up the very spice of life that brings the beautiful sunrise, or sunset, as well as awesome daytime and nighttime scenery.

CLOUDS: GOD’S CHARIOT OR THE DUST OF HIS FEET

As one comes to the end of this earthly existence, how wonderful it will be to look back and see that the clouds which have come into life over the years are producing a beautiful sunset. They have come to cover, to rain on us, to protect, to guide us, to witness to us. They remind us that God has been walking in our lives all the time; we know, because we see the clouds. Sometimes when we want to rebuke the clouds, we need to stop and inquire as to whether the Lord Himself is riding on them!

May there be just enough clouds in your life to create a beautiful sunset!

_________________________________________________________________

(c) The Alabaster Box, VOL 16 NO 01 2001, C. Yvonne Karl

yvonnekarl@gmail.com

ECCLESIOLOGY: Faith, Family, Fellowship, Food, Fasting, Fun, Favor

Ecclesiology comes from the Greek ekklesia meaning assembly. It is a compound of the Greek preposition ek (out from) and the verb kaleo (to call). In the New Testament ekklesia is used by Paul when he addresses the church in Rome, the church in Corinth, the church in Thessalonica and the church in Philipi. Therefore, ekklesia is applicable to an assembly of believers in a specific locality. Church, ekklesia, also refers to the collective group of believers around the world. It consists of all who have been called out of atheism and other religions, but more precisely, all who have been called out of sin and who have received Jesus Christ as Savior. They are now THE CHURCH regardless of color, race, standing, or denominational label. The apostle Paul wrote about the universal church in the following words about God’s exaltation of Christ: “Christ was seated far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself “ (Eph. 1:21-23, NLT). There are several analogies for ekklesia, the Church, one of which is The Body—as referenced in the above scripture. Another is The Bride (2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 21:9) for which reason much theological literature references the Church with the feminine pronoun: she, her. In the English language, for the most part, the word “Church” is capitalized when referring to collective believers around the world, and is not capitalized when referring to a local “church”—a specific assembly of believers.

How would you describe your church? What does it believe? What does it teach? What does it practice? The answers are some of the components of its ecclesiology.

FAITH

IS AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT IN ECCLESIOLOGY

Throughout the centuries, the word faith has been used and abused, dissected and debated, owned and disowned, yet it remains an essential element in ecclesiology. In fact, Hebrews 11:6 says, “And it is impossible to please God without faith.” The writer also describes the essence of faith: “Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him” as He rewarded Abel, Noah, Enoch, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Joseph, Moses, Rahab and others named in Hebrews 11. “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” (Heb. 11:1, NLT).  The obvious idea here (I repeat) is that faith is believing that God exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.

Isn’t it interesting how we in the western world have faith in a light switch? We believe that electricity exists and that if we flip the switch we’ll be rewarded with light.

An even more current example is our cell phone. Even though we do not see any wires, and most of us have no comprehension of how sound can be carried from our little instrument to that of a friend thousands of miles away, we still have faith in it, and dial the number. We don’t stop and think whether it will work, how it will work, or what if it doesn’t work. We have the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen. Our faith in the cell phone gives us assurance that it will work even though we can’t see how it works.

Biblical faith believes that God exists and that the Bible is true. The rest will take care of itself. That’s what faith is. How do we get it?

Faith comes by hearing God’s Word—the gospel (Rom. 10:17). That’s why we need to read the Bible everyday. Reading it out loud helps us hear it. We also hear it in church services, on TV programs, radio programs, CD’s, DVD’s, mp3’s, podcasts, etc. Romans 10 presents the need to hear in order to have faith to be saved: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (vs.13-15).

Many churches set forth in writing their “Statement,” or “Articles” of faith.  They extract certain principles from the Bible that we can expect to be emphasized in their particular local ekklesia: these are specific things they hope for and believe will actually happen.

FAMILY

IS AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT IN ECCLESIOLOGY

Another essential element in ecclesiology is the concept of family. “But to all who believed him[Jesus] and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure” (Eph. 1:5, NLT). If God brings us into His family through believing in Jesus Christ, then we need to function as a family. Families pray together, grow together, eat together, learn together, and follow the rules laid down by the parents. Since God is our Father, He lays down the rules by which we live in His family. Therefore, in an analogical way, the local church, ekklesia, is a family.

This concept became very real to me over the years in pastoral ministry as my husband and I lived hundreds of miles away from our families. Our children were closer to church members than their own relatives. Thank God there were people of all ages to act as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. It was an interactive family. Of course, it’s true that you can find community in many social groups, but the church family ministers to one another on a spiritual level that cannot be received elsewhere because we are all children of one Father, God. Therefore, we rejoice to say with the Apostle Paul, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Eph. 3:14-15, NKJV).

We should find a church home that preaches salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God. Unless it’s impossible because of poor health or some other valid reason, it is important to be part of the family of a Bible-believing local church, ekklesia, whether large or small, and regardless where it meets. The faithful preaching of the Word, along with the fellowship of other believers, can do wonders for our spiritual lives. It’s a place to bare our souls, find encouragement, comfort, and exhortation for daily tasks—both simple and complex, both easy and difficult. The older brothers and sisters in Christ share their many experiences with the younger ones—helping them, teaching them, and sometimes carrying them through the valleys and over the mountains of life. Ekklesia has at its root more than just an assembly; it is an assembly of believers that bond together as a family.

FELLOWSHIP

IS AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT IN ECCLESIOLOGY

This “family of God” experiences fellowship when they come together. The disciples passed on their experiences with Jesus saying, “What we have seen and [ourselves] heard, we are also telling you, so that you too may realize and enjoy fellowship as partners and partakers with us. And [this] fellowship that we have [which is a distinguishing mark of Christians] is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ (the Messiah)” (1 John 1:2-4, Amp). Fellowship is an essential element in ecclesiology.

Our fellowship in Christ is celebrated at the Lord’s table: “The cup of blessing [of wine at the Lord’s Supper] upon which we ask God’s blessing, does it not mean that in drinking it we participate in and share a fellowship (a communion) in the blood of Christ, the Messiah? The bread which we break, does it not mean that in eating it we participate in and share a fellowship, a communion, in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16, Amp).

To “give the right hand of fellowship” is a symbol of honor or authority—a symbol whereby the church leaders acknowledged their equality with other believers. “James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me” (Gal. 2:9, NIV).

Fellowship comes from a popular Greek word, koinōnia, which means association, community, communion, joint participation. It implies a partnership, comrades, and companions in like ventures. John says there is an essential glue required for being part of such spiritual fellowship: “But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7. NLT). If there are those who are not living in the light of God’s Word, Paul says this glue is absent and we cannot have koinōnia with them (2 Cor. 6:14, KJV).

Someone has asked “What is fellowship?” Another answers: “Two fellows in a ship.” While that’s a clever answer, there’s so much more than that. The two people have fellowship if they are bonded in Christ, sharing in the grace made available to them by Him, and pursuing His agenda for their lives. “I thank my God for your fellowship. your sympathetic cooperation and contributions and partnership, in advancing the good news (the Gospel) from the first day you heard it until now (Phil. 1:5, Amp).

FOOD

IS AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT IN ECCLESIOLOGY

Who over the age of fifty among us evangelical Christians doesn’t remember Sunday “dinner on the ground.” Everybody brought a dish and the food was spread out under the shade of the trees, blessed, and enjoyed by all. No doubt there were many confessions of gluttony as the sun went down. But what a joyous time of celebration it was. Celebration of what? Ekklesia. Church. Family. Koinōnia. Fellowship. The sharing of a mutual Faith.

Over time the practice changed when many churches began to build extra rooms onto their church facilities and called them fellowship halls. But the concept remained the same: groups of believers sharing their joy by partaking of food. Some churches now offer doughnuts and coffee before service on Sunday morning (a continental breakfast for late risers?). Some serve refreshments after the service as an opportunity for newcomers to meet with staff and fellow worshippers. Whenever a group from the church gets together at any time or location, it seems like food is an important ingredient of the event.

This is not surprising since this is exactly what the apostles did after the day of Pentecost: “...shared their meals with great joy and generosity all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved: (Acts 2:46c,47, NLT).

The Apostle Jude also took note of believers sharing food together and how sometimes outsiders came in merely to disrupt or even destroy the Koinōnia—the fellowship: “When these people eat with you in your fellowship meals commemorating the Lord’s love, they are like dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you. They are like shameless shepherds who care only for themselves. They are like clouds blowing over the land without giving any rain. They are like trees in autumn that are doubly dead, for they bear no fruit and have been pulled up by the roots” (Jude 12).

The warning here is that not all people who participate in the Lords’ Supper or a Fellowship Meal are “living in the Light of Christ,” and sharing the joy of sins forgiven and the grace of sharing it with others. That doesn’t mean we should abandon the practice of eating a meal together, but it does cause us to remember that “the devil, like a roaring lion, is seeking whom he may devour.”

FASTING

IS AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT IN ECCLESIOLOGY

Jesus implies that as believers we will put the practice of fasting into our lives for He said, “When you fast” don’t let it be known that’s what you’re doing. Wash your face. Anoint your head. Fast in secret. Don’t boast about it (See Matthew 6:15-18).  However, no where in scripture does Jesus command His people to fast. In fact, John the Baptist’s disciples came to Jesus and asked Him: “Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but your disciples keep on eating and drinking?” Jesus answered that the time would come when He would be taken away, and then His disciples would fast! (See Luke 5:33-36).

As we read the book of Acts, we cannot help but be reminded that Jesus began His ministry with forty days and nights of fasting (Matt. 5:2). No doubt modeling after Jesus, the early Church spent time in fasting and prayer after which they anointed and ordained Paul and Silas and sent them out to evangelize (Acts 13:2-3). After great success in winning souls in many cities, they fasted, then appointed pastors to oversee the discipleship of these new converts. And herein we see that fasting along with prayer is an essential element in ecclesiology.

In addition to fasting for ministers to be sent forth from the Church, Paul urges married couples to fast and pray for an unspecified period of time (1 Cor. 7). Although he does not say why they should fast and pray, the context lends itself to enriching the marital relationship—perhaps to sharpen discernment on how to deal with issues confronting the marriage?

In the New Testament, no specified length of time is given for a fast, nor is there given criteria for what kind of fast one should do. Therefore I believe it is a personal matter. Some people fast one day with water only; others fast for three days. Some fast one meal a day for a specified length of time. I know couples who fast one day a week, water-only, for their children. Several of my friends have done 40-day fasts. I personally have done several 21-day water-only fasts and many 10 day fasts. The Old Testament speaks of Daniel’s fast which consists of eating only vegetables and drinking only water for twenty-one days (Daniel 1:8-14). There are numerous variations.

One thing is sure, fasting must be accompanied by prayer; it is done for a specific purpose, and we do not call attention to the fact when we are fasting (although obviously we don’t deny it if confronted with “why aren’t you eating?”)

When our pastor calls a church-wide fast for a specific purpose, we should do everything within our power to honor that fast—remember, that’s what the Church did in Acts. We will also reap personal rewards from that time of sacrifice.

FUN

IS AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT IN ECCLESIOLOGY

King David’s son, Solomon, who prayed for wisdom, is believed to be the author of Ecclesiastes (which in Hebrew is Koheleth, translated to Greek Ecclesiastes meaning Preacher).  The Preacher then, said: “So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun” (Ecc. 8:15). The Psalmist confirms this: “You will enjoy the fruit of your labor.

How joyful and prosperous you will be” (Psa. 128:2). And the prophet Isaiah further emphasizes: “Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds” (Isa. 3:10).

I sincerely appreciate the prayer of the Psalmist: “May you live to enjoy your grandchildren (Psa. 128:6). I thank God for answering that prayer in this stage of my life. That’s why I moved from the unpredictable climate of Michigan to the hot desert of Nevada to the somewhat neutral climate of South Carolina to enjoy my grandchildren. How thankful I am for the privilege of enjoying them.

Oh, I love to have fun! And I’ve been blessed with wonderful family, friends, and church family with whom to enjoy fellowship and fun on many different levels. And in enjoying all aspects of life, we remember what the Apostle Paul said to the Romans: “Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!”(Rom. 12:16). This doesn’t spoil our fun, it just maximizes it. To enjoy God and life, having fun, is an essential element in ecclesiology.

FAVOR

IS AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT IN ECCLESIOLOGY

We have already found favor with God in that He gave His life for us. “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent, and is not willing that anyone should perish” (2 Peter 3:9).

“In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8 NLT).

Show favor to all by deferring to them in your opinions and welcoming them to share theirs remembering that it is not necessary to agree. We share how God’s favor is upon us because He gave His Son to die for us–not because of anything we have done, are doing, or will do. And we should offer the same favor to others. The choice is ours–whether to serve God and each other or to remain focused on ourselves and lose the joy of community.

SUMMARY

Let’s be diligent to participate in all practices that make up ecclesiology: faith, family, fellowship, food, fasting, fun, and favor. Life takes on a fuller meaning and causes us to look on the needs of others and count our blessings–even if they may seem few at the time. “And our own completeness is now found in him. We are completely filled with God as Christ’s fullness overflows within us. He is the Head of every kingdom and authority in the universe!” (Colossians 2:10 TPT).

 

 

(c) THE ALABASTER BOX #07-2008; updated 03-2019.

C. Yvonne Karl, yvonnekarl@gmail.com

None of These Things Move Me

NO PERSECUTION SHALL MOVE ME

Many American Christians still subscribe to the erroneous assumption that persecution means the absence of God’s blessing and favor in their lives. Try telling that to the Apostle Paul! Keep in mind how severely he had been persecuted, suffering so much for his precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. His life had been threatened in Damascus (Acts 9:23) and again in Jerusalem (Acts 9:29). He had been persecuted and run out of Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:50) and had faced possible stoning in Iconium (Acts 14:5). He had been stoned and left for dead in Lystra (Acts 14:19). He had been opposed and made the center of controversy by the church itself (Acts 15). He had experienced the loss of his closest friend and companion Barnabas (Acts 15:39). He had been beaten with rods and imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16). His life had been threatened in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-7,1 0). He had been forced out of Berea (Acts 17:13-14) and mocked in Athens (Acts 17:18). He had been stripped, beaten with rods, imprisoned, and put in chains. His back was a lacerated, bloody, swollen mass of human flesh. We can just imagine his excruciating pain must have been (Acts 16:23-24). He knew what it was to sit loin a dark, smelly, rat and roach infested dungeon. What was his crime? Why had he suffered so? Because he was determined to be obedient to Jesus Christ, His Savior.

Paul wrote to Timothy, Yea. and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution(2 Timothy 3: 12). Likewise, the Apostle Peter wrote, Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange things happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy (I Peter 4:12-1 3). It was with this spirit and this understanding that Paul wrote to the Corinthians, We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed, but not in despair. persecuted, but not abandoned: struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8).

On his way to Jerusalem, Paul stopped at Miletus and called the leaders from the church in Ephesus to come to his ship. While teaching and exhorting them to watch over the Christians in their charge, he reviewed his testimony of the trials he’d been through and related that everywhere he went he received prophecy that “bonds and afflictions” awaited him. Then he uttered those all-powerful words, which reflected his true character and commitment: None of these things move me! In fact, he says, Neither counts I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry. Which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).

NO PRESSURE OF LEADERSHIP SHALL MOVE ME

Throughout the church world today, the gates of hell are openly attacking God’s chosen people, but praise God we know that they shall not prevail; in other words when all is said and done the Church shall come out victorious. Some of the attacks are brought on by ungodly attitudes and behavior, and lack of faith and determination on the part of the believer, others are brought on by the demon-master who is always prowling around ready to devour the seed of THE MASTER.

Many of God’s people are suffering from the same depression Elijah suffered after the great victory at Mt. Carmel. He had called fire down from heaven. He had killed 450 gods of Baal. Now the woman Jezebel was out to kill him because he killed her precious gods. Elijah ran and hid and began to cry out to God-just like we would do. We think our situation is unique and we are the only ones who have to bear these particular circumstances. But take heart for no test or trial comes to us that has not been suffered by others before (I Corinthians IO: I 3). In Elijah’s case, God told him there were 7000 others like him. These things will happen even to devout, dedicated, committed, consecrated children of God; but in your patience possess ye your souls (Luke 21:19).

Many people abort their call early because they are unwilling to bear the pressure that comes with victory. Dr. James Dobson periodically devotes his radio broadcast to preservation of the pastor. Why? For some reason, clergy and laity have become a religious caste system. When laity separate themselves from clergy, they can have higher expectations for the clergy than for themselves. They want the clergy on a pedestal so as to bow down and worship them, but in so doing they make them into a statue–an object that is cold, unmoved, non- reacting, and expects nothing from them. Upon discovery that clergy are real people with emotions, faults, shortcomings. difficulties, afflictions, trials and tribulations, they often reject them. Rather than show love commitment, and compassion, the laity often insulate themselves with rationalizations for their actions and proceed to cut emotional and real ties with the clergy.

Recently we heard of the Pastor whose teen-age son ran away from home. The pastor’s wife became mentally ill and began heckling during the service. The congregation felt these things would not happen if the pastor were truly serving the Lord and they rallied to “put the pastor out”. (Have they read about John Wesley?) A middle-aged Pastor we know had a heart attack and was physically unable to preach for several months. The church dismissed him and hired a new man, cutting off all salary and benefits including insurance and pension. Another Pastor’s three children all rebelled, got involved in sin, and none serve the Lord today. , Yes, it happens everyday to laymen but how could it happen to pastors? (Read about Aaron’s sons and Samuel’s sons.) This is not a new phenomenon. These same kinds of things happened to Paul. Remember what he shared in his letter to Timothy: Demas hath forsaken me … Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil, the Lord reward him according to his works. You should be on your g guard against him because he strongly opposed our message … at first … everyone deserted me … but the Lord stood with me and strengthened me…(2 Timothy 4:10-17).

Leaders and people need to cry out to God for each other. All are part of the body of Christ and must stand together! If the church leadership is not of God, let God expose it or close it–not you. Don’t be the devil prowling around, nor a railer–undermining by talking about someone (Gal.5-,17), nor a grievous wolf in sheep’s clothing drawing away disciples after yourself (Acts 20:32).

Actually, in judging another you are judging yourself. Even our modern psychologists teach what the Bible says: Whatever you criticize in another person is your own shortcoming; so look first to yourself, then be silent about the other. Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. And why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:1-5,NIV).

NO PAINFUL DISCIPLINE SHALL MOVE ME

The prodigal son was tired of work. He was tired of being told what to do and how to do it. He was tired of being expected to do certain things. So he decided to quit! He asked for his inheritance, that which was legally his, and set out to have a good time. And so he did! He went places he had never been, did things he had never done, and was surrounded with friends. The only problem was, he didn’t think about the future-only about now. He was having fun and doing as he pleased with no one to boss him around, until reality hit, his money was gone, his friends had split. He had to humble himself and return to the only ones who might love him and accept him again-his family.

He had wasted his best years. his father’s gifts, and his ability to become somebody special. He had to start over at the beginning. Had the prodigal son stayed home, working for his father and obedient to him during this time. he would now be richer and possibly promoted to headship. The Apostle Paul understood this. He said when we enter a race, we enter to run in such a way as to win. You cannot win if you consider how difficult the track is, how much your body is hurting while you run, or all the fun you’re missing out on while you are busy training. But if we endure this hardness like a good soldier in training, we shall truly win some day. During this past summer, we could not help but experience a sense of pride and accomplishment for the Olympic contenders and winners. Millions of viewers wished they were in the races. What went uncaptured in our hearts and minds was the intense discipline that these contenders imposed upon themselves for years prior to winning the opportunity to compete at the Olympic level. They had trainers and coaches who made demands that often seemed unrealistic, even inhuman. You see, if one is able to beat his or another’s record, he has to submit himself to greater discipline and expectations than others do.

How often do we hear adults speak about their youth with regret saying “I wish my parents had made me …… As a result we have a generation of prodigal children (prodigal simply means reckless and extravagant). They give up any difficult project at the drop of a hat. If the job is too laborious, they quit. If the marriage is not meeting their needs, they seek divorce. If the church doesn’t tickle their fancy, they leave. If the children don’t do as they ask, they let them do what they wish. Oh, how we have need of patience, that, after we have done the will of God, we might receive the promise…(Hebrews 10:32). How different is this quitting spirit from the persevering spirit of Paul who, even though people begged him not to go a certain route because of the afflictions, persecutions, and chains that awaited him. he went anyway. He did not seek a way out, but sought to fulfill his call. He even sent the slave-boy, Onesimus. back to his master when he got saved. Can you imagine the outcry that would  come today if a pastor were to do that? Yes, of course, our culture has changed, but biblical principles have not!

NEITHER POVERTY NOR PROSPERITY SHALL MOVE ME

Many in the church world today equate success with growth and prosperity. If measured in these terms, Jesus and Paul were failures. In fact, the masses followed Jesus as long as he was doing signs and miracles in their midst, but when the cross went up, they were gone. Likewise, many people came to Paul’s meetings to be healed and set free, yet when he was arrested they were nowhere to be found. Christians, be on guard. When you should be standing by for comfort, strength and help, don’t leave and take as many others with you as possible to justify your actions. Jesus said, “let him who is without sin cast the first stone”. If we practice this, we’ll stand by each other through good report and evil report, through prosperity and through poverty.

In recent months, several great faith healers have been plagued by cancer and experienced heart attacks and had to have surgeries. Some prominent faith teachers have had to file bankruptcy and/or sell off some or all of their properties. Nearly every viable public ministry has been tainted by negative publicity of one kind or another. Cold-Christians and unbelievers point toward these matters and say “See, I told you so!” But the proof of the gospel has never been in great numbers or in miracles, or in visible success or failure. Jesus said there would be famous, public figures who would come at the end and ask Him to let them into heaven because they have done righteous-sounding deeds in His Name: “Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? Have we not cast out devils in thy name? Have we not done many wonderful works in thy name?” His answer, Depart from me: I never knew you (Matt. 7:22). Neither perceived spiritual success nor see”ng failure are proof of our acceptance by Jesus. It is something that has taken place in the heart. It is a relationship.

Once when the disciples came back from an evangelistic crusade, they were excited to report to Jesus about all the miracles they had done. He cautioned them not to rejoice over miracles, but to rejoice over the fact that their name was written down in the heaven (Luke 10:20).

NONE OF THESE THINGS MOVE ME

Let us say with Paul, I am persuaded I that neither death, nor life, nor angels, a nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-38).

 

© C. Yvonne Karl, The Alabaster Box, Vol. 7, Number 9 (1992). yvonnekarl@gmail.com

  

 

 

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