Have you ever experienced when a topic, or a name of somebody seems to come up in completely different circumstances or you happen to be thinking about someone and someone else mentions their name. I suppose we can put that sort of thing down to co-incidence or, as Christians, you may feel that it is God speaking to you about that subject or person, and that you need to respond in some way.
In the last months before I left Zimbabwe, the Holy Spirit moved in our assembly in just that sort of way. He woke a member of our church up every morning for three mornings in a row, at exactly 3:33 a.m. He shared this phenomenon with our Pastor, Dave, who a week later, was also woken at 3:33 a.m.. Dave decided that clearly this was of God, and that we as an assembly needed to be aware of it and to seek the Lord for clarity. He had no sooner finished explaining about 3:33 a.m. Wake up call, when Debbie came forward and explained how she was woken at about that time by a call on her cell phone - no-one was there. She looked at her watch, and it was 3:34 so around 3:33 a.m. God phoned her, we think. Chrissie felt the Lord was saying "Call on me and I will answer and tell you great and unsearcheable things you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3. So we felt that God was calling the Church to deep and searching prayer for the nation. We responded by starting a weekly fast, which I believe continues till now. John, a missionary who was part of our fellowship was woken at 3:26 a.m. He shared with the assembly and God lead me to Revelation 3:2-6. "Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember therefore what you have received and heard; obey it and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Yet You have a few people in Sardis, who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name before my Father and His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. "
This last week has been another week for what I would like to term, "A thematic Word."
On Sunday, Pastor Rich preached a message on "What is the Bible - getting down to absolute basics. He discussed the Scriptures as God's revealed Word, and the need to engage in regular reading and studying of the Bible for personal edification. (building up of one's self.) It was a great preach! Nothing I haven't heard before, but nevertheless, important to hear again.
On Monday, we did an unusual thing in this family, we read the Bible together, as a family. We were using a daily devotional of my mother's - by Bishop J. C. Ryle. The text was from Mark, but there was a text for further reading: 2 Tim 3:14 - 4:5. (I will quote this text in full a bit later, but for now I would like to show you the thematic development, as it unfolded during the week.)
On Wednesday I went to our home group. The text was Genesis 12:1-9 - we have been discussing Abraham, and he is the Bible Character around whom we are focusing our study. But as the evening unfolded, it became clear that the Lord had a clear word for a particular member of our group, but also for the group as a whole, about the importance of spending time in God's Word, hearing from God, every day.
At the end of the study we were all given an extract from a Charles Swindoll book from which I will quote the opening paragraph:
A vital walk depends upon daily discernment of the will of God. God could speak audibly with each of us if He desired. However that is not the norm today. He has left us His Word and His Spirit instead. But some find God's leadership difficult to discern. It needn't be hard or hazardous; but poor judgment has led many far afield. The following guidelines are designed to help you stay on the path of certainty and assurance"
Swindoll gives the the guidelines under the following headings:
Search the Scriptures. Swindoll quotes from 2 Tim. 3:16-17 under this heading.
Pray for understanding
Seek godly counsel
Read about God's will.
On Thursday evening, my mother and I went to an ordination service for the leader of my Parent's Bible study, who was being ordained as a deacon, which is the first step in the process of becoming a minister, in their denomination. The bishop, who presided over the ordination used as his text 2 Tim 4:2-8. In his preaching he exhorted the deacon to "Preach the Word" understanding the urgency of the message, and understanding that it is truth, it corrects, it rebukes and it encourages, but that many people nowadays will reject the preaching of the truth and will seek out what their itching ears want to hear. It was a really powerful word from God.
Let me emphasise that on each of the four occasions mentioned above this text or sections from this text were read or referred too. Co-incidence - I don't think so: More like a God-incidence!!
2 Tim 3:14 - 4:5
"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for Salvation though faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in Righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will Judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
Just some points that I glean from this passage, for personal application:
a) "How from infancy, you have known the Scriptures. Oh what a privilege it is to be introduced to God's Word from a young age. Nobody can be too young to hear from God through His Word. If you are a parent of small children, make it a daily habit to spend some time reading it with them. (Please note that I use the preposition "with" instead of "to".) Children will see that this book is special to you, and so in turn, it will be special to them. Choose the old favourite stories like Noah's Ark, Jonah and the "Whale", The birth of Jesus (don't wait for Christmas time for this one!), Some of the parables, the death and resurrection of Jesus (again, you don't have to wait for Easter to talk about this.), and stories about Peter and John healing the beggar at the temple gate, the conversion of Paul, and many more beside. Use a children's Bible or a modern English (or whatever your home language is) version of the Bible, and tell the stories with as much gusto and originality as you would the fairy tales and adventure stories that you read to them. By doing this daily you are communicating, without "telling them" that the Bible is a daily thing, and doesn't just belong in church, or Sunday School or school Scripture classes (if your Child is so fortunate as to have these.) Don't just read to them, also ready to discuss what you read. You can role play, you can ask questions that stimulate thought about the story, like, "Why do you think Jesus said that the Samaritan was a neighbour to the injured man?" And of course be ready to answer your children's questions. The Bible says in Proverbs 22:6 "Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it."
Reading to and with your children from an early age has proven educational benefit, and, reading the Word of God to them will also yield spiritual dividends.
I was blessed that I had early exposure to God's Word, the Bible, and I thank and praise him for that, but you may not be so young and have not had the same privilege. Yet if you have recently turned to Christ, and become born again, you are a spiritual infant, needing the milk of God's word. You too can decide from this time on, to make reading God's word a part of your daily life.
b) Scripture makes us wise to Salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Let's be clear here. Reading the Bible in and of itself will not make you a Christian. It is not the reading of God's Word, but the response to it that matters. Salvation is a free gift of God, freely given and received by faith of each of individual. The Scriptures are like a signpost pointing us to God, showing us the way to Salvation they are not Salvation itself. As a child, our favorite holiday resort was Nyanga in the eastern Highlands of Zimabwe. Now in order to get there we would drive on the road to Mutare until we came to Rusape, where there was a sign at the turn off saying "Nyanga - 98 km."
It would have been ridiculous if we pulled over and said, well we don't need to go any further, we have seen the sign. No, we needed to go in the direction that the sign was pointing. Yes, without the Bible, we would not be able to find Salvation, we would not be aware that there is Salvation in Jesus Christ, but the Bible itself is not Salvation.
c) The Bible is God-breathed - that is, it is God's Word - every word of it, and rejecting any part of it, is as good as rejecting the whole document. This is a central tenet of Christianity, and though we may discuss interpretation of certain scriptures, and there may be disagreement among Christians on aspects of God's Word, as Pastor Rich pointed out in his message on Sunday, anything that is essential to Salvation, is very clear in Scripture.
Well, I'm sure I could go on, but this turning into a dissertation instead of a blog, so I will desist and let the Word of God speak to you for itself. I will provide a bibliographical reference in my next blog to the the documents (other than the Bible) that I have quoted from or made reference to in this blog.