Friday, July 6, 2012

Pray Without Ceasing

I Thessalonians 5:17

    Pray without ceasing (to pray). How are we to understand this passage? Are we to pray audibly, every moment of every day? Or shall we remain constantly in an attitude of prayer? This would be commendable, right?  Or may we discern that we should not, no never, cease in our prayer life, regardless of any situation or circumstance? If the lack of safety and of security looms over head as a darkening storm; if it seemingly becomes a great threat: shall we labor to distance ourselves from that danger? Or shall we draw nigh unto God: shall we pray all the more fervently? Is safety to be found in attempting to distance our selves from the impending peril - or to be found in the presence of our Shield and Defender?
    Pray without ceasing. If any man understood [or yet] understands this saying, it was [and is] our Lord Jesus Christ! “And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God” Luke 6:12.  The garden of Gethsemane. “And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus oft-times resorted thither with his disciples. Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons” John 18:2-3.
    Why did Jesus pray constantly? He is very God! He is the eternally sinless Son of God! He is Righteousness! What need had He for such prayer? One answer might house all others:  “Draw nigh unto God and He will draw nigh to you” James 4:8  Oh, how we need to follow His example! “Draw nigh unto God and He will draw nigh unto you!”
    Pray without ceasing! In yet other scriptures, Paul gives us insight into his own thoughts; the burden of his heart - what he prayed, for whom he prayed, the object of prayer, the focus of his prayer.
     “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers” Rom.1:9.
    “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” I Thes. 1:3.
    “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh in you also that believe” I Thes. 2:13.
    “I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayer night and day” II Tim. 1:3.
    These are prayers of thanksgiving to God. Paul thanks God for His effectual working in the Believers. His prayers are prayers of remembrance. As Paul prays he is brought unto remembrance of  his brethren in the Lord. As he  is brought unto remembrance of his brethren, he prays.
    I dare say that there are few times on record that Paul prayed to God in behalf of himself. Here is perhaps the most familiar.
    “there was given me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted beyond measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, [not prayed without ceasing] that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” II Cor. 12:7-9a. Though I cannot say for sure, but I believe it to have happened this way: “Oh Lord I beseech Thee to remove this thorn in the flesh.” “My grace is sufficient for thee.” A second time: “Oh Lord I beseech Thee; remove this thorn in the flesh.” “My grace is sufficient for thee.” The third time: Oh Lord, I beseech Thee; remove this thorn in the flesh.” “My grace is sufficient for thee.” “Lord, what did you say?” “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee!” “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong”  vs.9b-10. “Oh Lord, brand the declaration of your Word upon my heart; keep it ever before me. When I am about to pray for some need in my own life, remind me, even before I pray, “My grace is sufficient for thee!”
    Therefore it should be evident: praying without ceasing is to be predominately in behalf of others!
    If we would further seek to know what it means to ‘Pray Without Ceasing’ we might find the Old Testament to be a reliable source of understanding. And what Bible character, if we were to choose one, would stand out more than Daniel?
    “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of the  eunuchs that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes. . .Now among these were of the children of Judah, DANIEL. . .” Dan. 1:1,3,6.  Daniel over time became the first of three presidents: he was preferred: the wicked, prideful presidents and princes sought, through deceit and lies, to set Daniel up to be cast into the king’s den of lions. But the presidents and princes “could find no fault in him.” The deception: Now, O King, establish a decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed: “Whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions” vs.7b,8.   
Daniel prayed without. . .
  “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” Daniel 6:10.  aforetime: min, den, qadmah. Aforetime, a former time, antiquity, a priority. Were not the chambers of the heart of Daniel opened toward heaven; his face toward God, giving thanks continually?  
    “Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God” vs. 11.  No surprise there! Those men knew the life and testimony of our Brother! There was no doubt concerning his response and reaction to the statute fabricated by those men. Oh that our testimony before men might be even as Daniel’s!      
Ceasing to pray: is that an option?
   “And when thou prayest thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly: Matt. 6:5-6.
    Oh, Daniel! Is it not time to invoke another method of prayer?  Close the windows to your chamber! Enter into your closet and shut the door! Pray to your Father in secret that you be not discovered in failing to regard and show obedience to the king and his decree! It is unchangeable! It altereth not! (Dan. 6:8,12,15)  Listen Daniel: who’s to know? Publicly acknowledge acceptance of the king’s decree, but pray, hidden in your closet to your God. “You mean, LIE, to the king, to myself, and to God?” Then Daniel, just cease to pray at all to God for the period of thirty days! You have prayed without ceasing - now cease to pray; fear man more than you fear God. Daniel, what saith the scriptures: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people. . .Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles. . .Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme. . .” I Peter 2: 9a,12a,13a. 
    What is our Brother to do? Daniel, “submit yourself to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be the king, as supreme.” But he’s not going to do so, is he? Is there some law of antiquity that supersedes  the writing of Peter? But then, this is NOT the king’s ordinance, is it? Daniel DID submit himself to the king inasmuch as he was preferred above the presidents. . .an excellent spirit was found in him; the king thought to set him over the whole realm” Dan. 6:3,4. No, it was the presidents and princes who sought occasion against Daniel. They consulted together to establish a royal statute; not the king. “Daniel, which is of the children of captivity of Judah, regardeth thee not. . .nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day” vs.13.  It was their decree and not the king’s. It  was they who regarded not the king. These were a wicked den of lions, following the devil whom they served; going about seeking whom they might devour.
    “Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” I Thess. 5:17-18. Daniel kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God.
 A Prayer in Response to a Prayer. 
    Oh Daniel! Why would you put yourself in harm’s way? After all, isn’t your having the windows open toward Jerusalem; praying toward that City - is that any more than a ritual that you are performing? What is the purpose; where is the reasoning; why do you do it?
The prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple.
    “And now, O God of Israel, let thy word, I pray thee, be verified, which thou spakest unto thy servant David my father. ” I Kings 8:26. verified: aman, to build up, support rendered faithful, to be permanent, be true, certain, stedfast, sure. 
    And what is the Word/Covenant that God made with David? “I will set up thy seed after thee [Solomon] which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish his kingdom forever . . . And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee: thy throne shall be established forever” II Samuel 7:12b,13,16. The final words of David: “He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure” II Samuel 23:5b.
    Solomon, having besought the Lord to “verify His Word” now continues to pray: “Yet have thou respect unto the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O Lord my God, to hearken unto the cry and to the prayer, which thy servant prayeth before thee to day: That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place. And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place: and when thou hearest, forgive” I Kings 8:28-30.
    “When thy people Israel be smitten down before the enemy, because they have sinned against thee, and shall turn again to thee, and confess thy name, and pray, and make supplication unto thee in this house: Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy people Israel, and bring them again unto the land which thou gavest unto their fathers” I Kings 8:32-34. Sound familiar? It’s counterpart is greatly known and often quoted - II Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, which are called by my name . . .”  
The Davidic covenant that God verified to Solomon.
    God “verifies His Word” to Solomon:  “If  thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, and do according to all that I have commanded thee, and shall observe my statutes and my judgments; then will I establish the throne of my kingdom according as I have covenanted with David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man to be ruler in Israel” II Chron. 7:17,18. Daniel is honoring the divine covenant that God made with David and Solomon. He is taking God at His Word! “That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place. And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place: and when thou hearest, forgive.” Again, Daniel in opening his windows toward Jerusalem, the place where  God said, My name is there; praying toward the same: that God will hear from heaven, forgive the sin of the people and heal the land! The prayer of Daniel is not a mere ritual! It is a covenant/prayer!
   “Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God” Dan. 6:11.  “these presidents and princes assembled together. . .consulted together. . .these men assembled unto the king.” And we know what happened: Daniel was delivered - and the den of lions found in the king’s court was cast into yet another den of lions. . .
    This brings to mind another scripture in regard to ‘assembling.’ “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” Heb. 10:25. (Know that our adversaries cease not to assemble themselves together against us.)
On Ceasing to Pray: Words of Wisdom from the Prophet Samuel.  
     “For the Lord will not forsaken his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the Lord to make you his people. Moreover, as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and right way. Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you” I Samuel 12;22-24.
    “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in CEASING TO PRAY for you?”
Praying in Jesus’ Name. 
    Many today think to set laws and penalties against those who would pray in Jesus’ name. It is a declaration set in stone before the foundation of the world, a priority: the Law of God takes priority over the decrees of men. Shall men in their arrogance think themselves able to override, to make of non-effect the Law of a Sovereign God? Shall the creation think to bring the Creator into submission? What folly! We must obey God rather than men.
    “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” John 14:13.  “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you” John 15:16.  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you” John 16:23. “Whether  therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” I Cor. 10:31.   “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” Eph. 5:20. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” Col. 3:17.
    Do we pray after we have eaten, in Jesus name - or before we eat? Then should our praying not only end in the name of Jesus, but originate in His name? “Our Father, we enter thy presence in the name of thy Son Jesus!” Why should we not saturate the prayer; every petition, every supplication, every thanksgiving: present every request individually in Jesus’ name? He would stay at the forefront of our minds; and I believe that our Heavenly Father would be pleased and likewise glorified! God forbid that we simply end our prayer, “In Jesus name” as a ritual, that it come across as no more than  a tag or an afterthought. 
    Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing.  Note, the way to rejoice evermore is to pray without ceasing. We should rejoice more if we prayed more. We should pray always, and not faint. . . The meaning is not that men should do nothing but pray, but that nothing else we do should hinder prayer in its proper season.  Matthew Henry

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

On Running the Race

    Running the race. What thought is brought to mind? A paved track with parallel lines? A number of competitors lined up: the goal, to see who is the fastest; who will break the tape at the finish line? Of what purpose would such a race be as applied to the Christian life? Perhaps ancient history can afford us some insight. . .
Setting the Stage
    The first two decades of the fifth century B.C. marked one of the great turning points in world history. These were the years of the Persian and Greek wars. The powerful Persian Empire in 546 B.C. extended from Asia to Egypt to what is now Turkey. This great empire built the first Suez Canal which linked the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. 
    Greece on the other hand, consisted of a scattering of independent city-states, called poleis. These early city-states spawned the democratic ideas that have persisted into modern times. Athens eventually became the largest and most prosperous polis. Another Greek polis, Sparta, was not so democratic. They kept their kings and maintained a conservative, regimented society built around military training and the art of war.
The Persian/Greek War
    The Persian Empire over the years expanded to the Mediterranean Sea. In the process some Greek settlements were conquered. Ionia was one such settlement. After many years, they tried to revolt against the Persians but the uprising was immediately squashed by the powerful Persian Army. By the year 490 B.C., the Persian Army was ready to expand their territory and move into Europe. They landed a large force just outside of Athens on the plains of Marathon and prepared for attack.
The Role of Phidippides
    The Athens, vastly outnumbered, desperately needed the help of Sparta's military base to help fend off the attack. Time was short, so the Athenian generals send Phidippides (or Philippides) a professional runner to Sparta to ask for help. The 140 mile course was very mountainous and rugged. Phidippides ran the course in about 36 hours. Sparta agreed to help but said they would not take the field until the moon was full due to religious laws. This would leave the Athenians alone to fight the Persian Army. Phidippides ran back to Athens (another 140 miles!) with the disappointing news. Immediately, the small Athenian Army (including Phidippedes) marched to the plains of Marathon to prepare for battle. 
The Battle of Marathon 
    The Athenian Army was outnumbered 4 to 1 but they launched a surprise offensive thrust which at the time appeared suicidal. But by day's end, 6400 Persian bodies lay dead on the field while only 192 Athenians had been killed. The surviving Persians fled to sea and headed south to Athens where they hoped to attack the city before the Greek Army could re-assemble there.
    Phidippides was again called upon to run to Athens (26 miles away) to carry the news of the victory and the warning about the approaching Persian ships. Despite his fatigue after his recent run to Sparta and back and having fought all morning in heavy armor, Phidippides rose to the challenge. Pushing himself past normal limits of human endurance, he reached Athens in perhaps 3 hours, delivered his message and then died shortly thereafter from exhaustion. 
    Sparta and the other Greek polies eventually came to the aid of Athens and eventually they were able to turn back the Persian attempt to conquer Greece. 
Concluding Remarks and Beginning of Olympic Marathon Races
    The Greek victory marked one of the decisive events of world history because it kept an Eastern power (the Persians) from conquering what is now Europe. The victory gave the Greeks incredible confidence in themselves, their government and their culture.
         Centuries later, the modern Olympic Games introduced a "marathon" race of (40,000 meters or 24.85 miles).  The winner was Spiridon Louis, a Greek postal worker from village of Marusi and veteran of several long military marches , His time was 2 hours, 58 minutes, 50 seconds for the 40 kilometer distance (average pace of  7:11 minutes per mile).
      At the 1908 Olympic Games in London, the marathon distance was changed to 26 miles to cover the ground from Windsor Castleto White City stadium, with 385 yards added on so the race could finish in front of King Edward VII's royal box. After 16 years of extremely heated discussion, this 26.2 mile distance was established at the 1924 Olympics in Paris as the official marathon distance.
   As well known in history as was the phenomenal running of Phidippides it was not unnatural that the writer of Hebrews should reference “running the race” as a comparison unto the followers of Christ.
Let us . . .run with patience the race.
    “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and [the] sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” Heb. 12:1.  (Omit the).  Better, lay aside Sin (apotithemi, to put away, cast off.)
    The “laying aside” of every weight and Sin: does it infer that we should lay aside, that is set to one side, not at a great distance; perhaps at ‘arm’s length,” perchance it will be readily accessible should we desire to take it up again. No! It is to cast off. The athlete who trains to throw the shot put, a heavy metal ball: with his strong arm he casts it as far down field as he can. What folly that man should think to cast off Sin with the arm of the flesh. “I can do it myself, I need no other help!” Consider the strong arm of the Lord: He cast our Sins, as weighty as they were, as far as the east is from the west!
    The casting away of every weight and sin which doth so easily beset us. As the hymn writer mourned, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.” Beset, euperistatos, well standing around, i.e. (a competitor) thwarting (a racer) in every direction (fig. of sin in general.) There has never been a day when the world (and Satan) have had so many resources to literally bombard its occupants (and the Believer). And the attack is omni-directional: Satan continually goes about seeking whom he may devour.
    “And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” Luke 22:41-44. “and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born” Rev. 12:4b. Are we not to understand that our Lord Jesus Christ was to run the race that was set before Him, even unto its Finish, constantly be attacked from all sides by Satan himself along with his sons the Pharisees, priests: His own received Him not. And some will inquire, Why did Jesus pray so much?
    And what do these two verses have to do with one another, you may ask? The answer: EVERYTHING! Carefully read the following definitions. The unfolding of their message is foundational to the comprehension of these verses.
ago, a prim verb; prop. to lead; by impl. to bring, drive, (reflex.) go (spec.) pass (time), or (fig.) induce: be, bring (forth), carry, (let), keep, lead away, be open. 
agoge, redupl; a bringing up, i.e. mode of living: - manner of life.
agon, prop. a place of assembly (as if (led), i.e., ( by impl.) a contest held there); fig., an effort or anxiety:  conflict, contention, fight, race.
agonia, a struggle (prop. ( the state), i.e. (fig.) anguish, agony.
agonizomai, to struggle, lit. ( to compete for a prize), fig. ( to contend with an adversary), or gen. (to endeavor to accomplish something): fight, labor fervently, strive.
    How may we define ‘running the race?’  A bringing up, mode of living, manner of life;  agony, a struggle, anguish, to contend with an adversary, labour fervently.  There is an assembly, a contest (held there), a conflict, contention, fight, race.
    Jesus went before us and endured the agony as He contended with the adversary; as He ran the race in our stead. Shall we not take up our cross and follow Him? The adversary with which we contend is a defeated foe! Jesus gained the victory forever at the cross; He finished His race, crossing the FINISH line! (May it be known that Satan, though a competitor of sorts, was not in the race!  The race was one that was ruled by certain laws. If he, Satan, could get Jesus to break just ONE - He would be disqualified! Even at the cross, Satan must have been convinced that Jesus would fail - and he, the devil would be the victor by default. And it would be God, who according to His own Law, would disqualify the Lord Jesus! Ha! Not so, Lucifer! 
    In Luke 22 we read “Father, if thou be willing, remove the cup. . .and there appeared an angel from heaven strengthening him. Shall we not rightly apply Isaiah 40:28-30 here? Jesus was not pulling back, but pressing forward. Men may have led Jesus to the cross, but it was His passion that drove Him there; sweat as great drops of blood, agony; a fire within His soul that could not be quenched. Jesus has, for the 33 years of His life on earth, run the course that the Father set before Him; victory was nigh at hand; Satan would be defeated!
   “Jesus “endured the cross. . .endured such contradiction of sinners against himself.”  “consider Him - lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” Hebrews 12:2b, 3.  He willingly ran the race according to the will of the Father. On the cross He declared - FINISHED! The race which He ran with patience was one of endurance, and He won it, defeating His Foe! On Resurrection Day His Father raised Him up: “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow. . .And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Phil. 2:9,10a,11.  He who endured the crown of thorns is “crowned with glory and honour” Heb. 2:9.
    A soldier may carry upon his person a heavy backpack, with his rifle and much other equipment; but the one who is running a race will travel light: he will lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset him - he will run with  patience the race that is set before him. His goal, the finish line: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher [finish line?] of our faith. He will “run with patience:”  “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”
A Soldier of the Cross.
    Despite his fatigue after his run to Sparta and back and having fought all morning in heavy armour, Phidippides rose to the challenge. Pushing himself past normal limits of endurance, he reached Athens in perhaps 3 hours, delivering his message and then died shortly thereafter from exhaustion. 
   Amidst the running of his course, Phidippides put on heavy armour and fought against the enemy; then resumed the run from Marathon to Athens.  
    Are we not admonished to “run the race,” yet to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might? To put on the whole armour of God, that ye [we] may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil? (Eph. 6:10,11.)
    “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his suffering, being made conformable unto his death: If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. . .forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” Phil. 3;10, 13b, 14.
       “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course. . .” Brother Paul, tell us of the fight that you have fought; and of the race that you have run; of the course that you have finished.   
    “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once I was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils  in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” II Cor. 11:24-27. 
    “And he [the Lord] said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong” II Cor. 12;9,10.
   They might imprison Paul, even put him in stocks (Acts 15:22) but they could not imprison his spirit, nor the Gospel of Jesus Christ! He continued running the race! 
A Great Cloud of Witnesses.
    Consider the running of the race by those heroes of faith found in Hebrews chapter 11: “Who through faith. . .had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented: (Of whom the world was not worthy:)  Choose a Moses, a Joseph, a David: follow his life’s story; see him running the race that is set before him: his fights, his struggles, his persecution - and his God who constantly watched over him in the midst of it all! 
Running with a Vision.
    Look unto your Neighbor. You are not alone in the running of the race. 
    In the running of a marathon (26.2 miles) one will sweat profusely, will likely lose weight: in so doing he/she will consume not just a cup, but liters of water and other fluids. They cannot be weighted down, carrying a gallon jug of water: there are others standing on the side with cups of water of which they may partake when necessary. We as believers are runners in the race, but likewise we are among those who are on the side lines with cups of water to give our brethren in their thirst as they also are running the race that is set before them. And let us not forget Phidippides, who amidst ‘running the race’ donned heavy armour and himself fought the oppressors. At onset, here are at least three things we are to be busy doing of which there should be no debate!
   “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only. . .For I was hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in. . .Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” Matt. 10:42a, 25;35,39b.  Should our response not be as our Brother Paul? “And I will gladly spend and be spent for you” II Cor. 12:15.
Running the Race - Getting a Second Wind.
     Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” Isaiah 40:28-31.
    Second wind: “the energy for a renewed effort to continue an undertaking” (Webster.)  It is widely known that one can get a renewed energy as he sees the goal or finish line. The encouragement is as a breath of fresh air in his nostrils. 
    The running of our race is not one of competition nor speed: it is more of an endurance race. It is contending with an adversary. It is putting on the armour. It is running the race, being strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. “Yea. though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” As with Phidippides the terrain we run is very mountainous and rugged. It is not a race to be run by sight but by FAITH. It is looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith! Shall we not rightly say that Jesus completes our faith? Revelation 3:19 says that “times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.”  
    Something puzzles me. Phidippides ran 140 miles each way to and from Athens to Sparta; then another 26 miles from Marathon to Athens: what did he do for food and water?  But be assured, in our running the race as Believers, we have with us the Everlasting Fountain of Living Water and the Bread of Life!

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Anointing; the Abiding

“But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things” I John 2:20. The words unction and anointing are basically the same: chrisma, chrio, to smear or rub with oil, i.e. (by implication) to consecrate to an office, an endowment of the Holy Spirit: anointing, unction. It is, if you please, a Hands On; as the rubbing with oil at the hands of a mother upon her newborn: is not the child warmed? Does he/she not know of the love, the intimacy being poured forth? The manifestation of the Father for His “little children” is exceedingly evident in I John!
It is now upon the eve of my seventieth birthday. I John 2:27 has been my one special verse which the Lord impressed upon my heart about 45 years ago. I know that most of you have such a verse - this is mine. It is at this time that I seem to be getting a green light: it’s time to write.
“But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him” I John 2:27.
So - the Anointing is something, more specifically, Some One, that the Believer receives; this Anointing abides; this Anointing teaches; this Anointing is Truth; ye shall abide in the Anointing (and He in you.)

“It is part of our sinful infirmity that we are unable of ourselves to interpret God’s Word aright; but it is part of the gracious office of the Holy Spirit to guide believers into the truth, thereby enabling them to apprehend the Scriptures. This is a distinct and special operation of the Spirit on the minds of God’s people, whereby He communicates spiritual wisdom and light unto them, and which is necessary unto their discerning aright the mind of God in His Word, and also their laying hold of the heavenly things found therein. . .Here, then, is the first and most essential qualification for understanding and interpreting the Scriptures, namely a mind illuminated by the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit, Arthur W. Pink

“Arthur Pink, in his “Interpretation of the Scriptures” says we need to “Recognize the interrelation and mutual dependence of the Old and New Testaments:” And to “Observe the manner in which and the purpose for which the Old Testament is cited in the New.”
Here is but a sampling of what we find of our proposed study on Anointing and Abiding beginning in the Old Testament.
“And thou shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify him, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office. And thou shalt bring his sons, and clothe them with coats: And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office: for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations” Exodus 40:13-15. “And Moses took of the anointing oil, and of the blood which was upon the altar, and sprinkled it upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons. . .and sanctified Aaron, and his sons” Lev. 8:30. And Moses took the anointing oil, and anointed the tabernacle and all that was therein, and sanctified them” Lev. 8:10.
“put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify him.”
But the teaching of an Anointing continues in the NT - “put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh” Rom. 13:14. Notice, he who is anointed is likewise sanctified. Both anointing and sanctifying speak together of the setting apart of someone or some thing unto the Lord.
“their anointing . . an everlasting priesthood.” “Jesus Christ. . .the faithful witness. . .loved us, washed us from our sins in his own blood. . .hath made us kings and priests unto God” Heb 1;5,6. Make the comparison: we as anointed priests are clothed in the garment of the Righteousness of Christ; we are anointed by the Spirit with the Anointing oil and of the blood of Christ - that we may minister unto God in the priest’s office! How lightly we esteem our calling. Far more than merely thinking to “do good works,” we have a Divine office; we are ambassadors for Christ. II Cor. 5:20.
“and anointed the tabernacle and all that was therein, and sanctified them.” Again, anointing and sanctifying are used together in that which is set apart unto Jehovah God. “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” Rev.21:3. Is the Tabernacle not Christ Himself? And “all that was therein”: His people; their God.?

Sprinkling, anointing of the Anointing Spirit unto sanctifying and purging that one may in obedience serve, may abide in the living God.

“For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God” Heb. 9:13-14. “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” I Peter 1:2.
The Anointing Deliverer. A prophetic promise to Israel: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing” Isa. 10:27. Then shall they come to Christ, for He declares, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light!” Does this not apply to every Believer?

The Anointing; the Abiding

“But the Comforter, [com fort, with strength] which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” John 14:26. And what is recorded for us immediately following?
“Every branch [that abideth] in me, [Abide] in me, and I [abide] in you, As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it [abide] in the vine; no more can ye, except ye [abide] in me. He that [abideth] in me, and I [abide] in him. . .If a man [abide] not, If ye [abide] in me, and my words [abide] in you, continue [abide] ye in my love, If ye keep my commandments, ye shall [abide] in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments and [abide] in his love, These things have I spoken unto you that my joy might remain [abide] in you, I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go, and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain [abide]. John chapter 15.
“The same anointing teacheth you of all things“ vs. 27. “He will bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”
Consider the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; for that matter the entire New Testament - How were they written? Did the disciples and apostles religiously write journals, recording every word and detail? Or did CNN have a camera crew to document every episode? Who was there when God created the world? The prophets? No, there was no man, but the Eternal Spirit of God. He is the witness, the court appointed recorder. It is He who brought to remembrance all that God would have recorded in the Book.
This text verse though a blessed Promise and Comfort is seldom (and reluc-tantly) quoted, for there is one little phrase that is a thorn in the flesh to the average minister of the gospel: “and ye need not that any man teach you.” The explanation? “Well it doesn’t mean what it says, or appears to say. Has God not given us the prophets, the apostles, teachers and preachers to teach us?!?” Indeed He has - however, “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son” I John 5:9.
If you have noticed, at times there are verses that seems to ‘stop short:’ a sentence that is not quite finished or completed. One that is obvious is found in Exodus chapter 32: Moses was praying after ascending back into the Mount, “And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and made them gods of gold. now if thou wilt forgive their sin¾; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.” What if the KJV had it written, “and ye need not that any man teach you¾”
“and ye need not that any man teach you.” Or it could be rendered, “And ye need not the teachings of any man.” Man is tis, Gr. some or any person or object or source (things, divers.) This would include radio, TV, internet, books, etc.
Ye need not that any man teach you - teach you WHAT? I Timothy chapter one speaks of those who teach “fables; from which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.” “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” I John 4:1.
We know in part; we see through a glass darkly. What mere man can teach you “of all things?” The verse begins, But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you - and the thought continues, “the same anointing teacheth you of all things.” “ye need not that any man teach you.” What man can declare himself to abide in you and teach you of all things? “And ye need not that any man teach you. They may give instruction to the intellect, they desire to teach the inner man; but only the indwelling Spirit can teach your heart TO abide in Him! “but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, [TO abide in Christ] and is truth and is no lie, ye shall abide in Him!” The Anointing is Truth and is no lie. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought [ our prayer life is regarded as an infirmity: God help us!] but the Spirit maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” Rom. 8:26-27. In view of this, how very critical that the Anointing One abide in us (in no wise excluding the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.)
“If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” I Peter 4:11.
“Now if any man build upon the foundation [Jesus Christ] gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it” I Cor. 3:13. Shall our “works” be revealed as an attempt to impress the Lord with what we do [self]; or will they be made known that they were accomplished in willing obedience to the Anointing Spirit of God: wood, hay and stubble; or gold, silver and precious stones?
The oracles of God. Logos, logion. We are to seek the mind of God, which is revealed by the Anointing Spirit of God. Ye need not the teachings of man; that’s the negative. But you do need the teaching of the Anointing One.
Note: Divine oracles were given by means of the breastplate of the High Priest, in connection with the service of the Tabernacle, and the Sept, uses the associated word logeion in Ex.28:15, to describe the breastplate.” Vines’ Expository Dictionary.
Also, in regard to the breastplate: “And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth into the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually” 28:29. Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of life? Is Jesus Christ not our Great High Priest? Then our names are written on His breastplate - upon His heart!
One last thought: Remember in Luke chapter 11 and verse one: “And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he was ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us TO pray, as John also taught his disciples.” Lord, teach us the manner in which to pray; vocal or silent, standing or on bowed knee, the location or place of prayer, the words with which we are to speak, etc.? What man, be he John or some other, could teach his followers to pray as could the Lord Jesus? Must learning TO pray not originate from within? Shall the ‘ears’ of the heart not hear the voice of God, be advised of His will, and respond thereby? Is it not the same Spirit that is the Anointing One, who both teaches us all things -TO abide in Christ and TO pray? And how shall we pray apart from the Abiding Presence of the Anointing?

How can one rightly teach that which he has not learned?
“A saving knowledge is not a knowledge of Divine things, but is a Divinely-imparted knowledge. It not only has God for its object, but God for its author.” A. W. Pink
The man of God: His teaching is a tool that is often used in the Hand of the Anointing Craftsman.