Learning Life’s Lessons

Potiphar was one of the officials for Egypt’s pharaoh. He was the captain of the guard. He bought Joseph from the Ishmaelite’s who acquired him from Jacob’s sons.

Undoubtedly, Potiphar purchased Joseph through a slave action, an event that had to be completely humiliating and cruel for Joseph. You will recall that Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son. He had, as a teenager, been taken from his father, sold and resold as a slave, and was now subject to the demands and prodding of his new master.

So it is a great understatement to say that these circumstances were less than comfortable for Joseph. But, in Genesis 49, Jacob called his twelve sons together and gave a prophecy to each. Joseph would literally be made strong by the hands of the Almighty God. Even though he was vulnerable to hostile forces.

Here we learn a valuable lesson. There is no ideal place to serve God, except the place where he has set you down. There is no ideal job for you to hold. How many times do men wish they were somewhere else, doing something other than their present job? I recall years ago a friend of mine worked for a very small, family-owned factory. He was the key employee. Eventually, the family wanted to retire and offered him a chance to buy the business. He prayed and prayed about it but just didn’t seem to get an answer. He called me for advice. What should he do to serve the Lord best? I told him it is my belief that God can use us regardless of where we live or what we do, as long as it is honest work.

He can use factory owners and factory employees. He can use farmers and engineers, cab drivers, dentists and veterinarians. There is not a position, which is honest work, where he cannot use you. And when retirement becomes your place in life, he can use you there just as well.

By the way, he bought the factory and prospered financially, but his health failed. Even then, he continued to serve the Lord as well as he could. He and his wife had serious problems with their children, even though they raised them in the church and in a Christian home. But, they continue to serve the Lord with prayer and faith.

There are no perfect situations in life, no ideal jobs, no ideal neighborhoods, whether in the country or in the city. There are no ideal churches to join that will be without problems. There are good jobs, good neighborhoods, good churches, but no ideal ones. People who look for the ideal circumstances in life forget that all that is excellent and all that is perfect is saved for us in heaven. As the story of Joseph clearly teaches, the world may have good times and bad times. But, in the final analysis, it is a training ground for the Bride of Christ, the Church, for our heavenly mission.

Those who emulate there is an ideal in this life on Earth are clouded by deceptions. Most of us, like Joseph, can say that life is far from ideal. Difficulties that are not of our own making enter our lives. It is only by accepting the love of God and His discerning hand in our life that we can serve God best.

This 4th of July weekend will see hundreds of thousands leaving their homes to get away for a while, maybe just a few days in a cabin or on the beach. Maybe a little refreshment, a little vacation, from our present circumstances might be of some temporary benefit, but it is only temporary. We can’t flee from ourselves.

I don’t know about you, but my biggest problem is me. Years ago, I was in a head-on collision in my automobile. The other driver was killed and I nearly died as a result of it. I had a good marriage and three small children. I was earning a good income, lived in a good community, and had good friends. In one instant, my life changed. I couldn’t work enough to pay the bills. My friends and most of my family seemed to forget where I lived. Things got progressively worse. I can assure you I never imagined I would be trapped in a situation like that. But God had chosen to set me down in that environment. And eventually, when it seemed I might not survive, I could sense the hand of God.

Someone once said correctly. The test is different for different people. When all seem to be gone we still follow Christ. When our hopes and dreams are no longer a reality we simply follow Christ. The specific circumstances of life may be different for all of us, but one thing is the same. To be saved eternally we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily, and follow Christ.

We have this great promise from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ- Matthew 19:28-30.   This is Jesus speaking to us, here, today.

28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

We often ask God to remove the problem or remove us from the problem. Most of the time what God does with His children is change their attitude toward the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

God’s constant presence is the source of our protection. His word becomes our strength.

 

Dreams and Goals

Everyone has dreams and goals for their life. Some see success as making lots of money, living comfortable, and retiring easy and early. To others success is long life, free of disease and heartache. I think everyone has some dream of success.

 

The Bible says if you “ delight yourself in the Lord. He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4) That is a marvelous promise. The problem is it seldom happens. If it did it would seem that many would be healthy, wealthy and wise for that is what most people desire isn’t it?

 

If this is the desire of our heart, why then are we not more successful?

 

Could it be that we have the wrong idea of what success is? Or, it is possible that we have not listened to God’s conditions for success.

 

The only condition listed in Psalm 37 is delight in the Lord. In other words, always, always put God first. Jesus told his disciples “seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matt 6:33)

 

If this is not our primary goal them we have wrong gods. Your Christian life can help you set your priorities in order. If you ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior there indeed will be peaks and valleys. But with God you will have the greatest Advocate of them all, so all the glory goes to Him.

 

We all are failures without God, without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a profound respect for the Bible as the word of God. How does this apply to you and to assure you that the desire of your heart can be met? Don’t forget, God loves us and we are special to Him. In the end, we must admit that we are incapable of handling life’s problems by ourselves. The devil will whisper to you that you are not important. They you were not really created in the image and likeness of God. Doesn’t the Bible tell us we are all sinners? Sin is trying to live apart from God and His Laws.

 

King David is an example of a mighty follower of God who came to realize the extent of his sin. He had a good look at himself when Nathan pointed out the evil things in his life. David finally said, “ Surely I have been a sinner form birth sinful form the time my mother conceived me” (Psalms 51:5) The Bible assures us of this fact “ All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. (Romans 3:23) Remember this, one most know and confess he is a sinner to be saved. King David eventually got honest with himself. In Psalms 51:12 he say, “Wash away all of my iniquities and cleanse me from my sins.”

 

We all have a choice to live God’s way or to live our way. There are those who believe the most important thing on Earth is to look out for number one. They want to live in a civilization where man has sole dominion over his life. There is such a place. It’s called Hell. It is a place where men divorce themselves from God’s claims on their life. But the truly successful person has learned that he must be properly related to God. We must claim Jesus as our Savior. It is He that said we must be born again. This makes us special to God. Through the blood of Jesus Christ we are saved not only from our past, but from the fear of our future as well. Our power for living successfully absolutely comes from God. This is our inheritance go on and claim it!

 

If you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9-10) And with this fear leaves your life, fear of the present and fear of the future. Remember this II Timothy 1:7 “ For God has not given you a spirit of fear but of power, of love, and of a sound mind”

 

How does one give his life to Jesus? How can you come into this intimate fellowship with the Lord God who takes away our fears and replaces it with power? Remember this, God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life. (John 3:16) God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. In John 10:10, Jesus says,” I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly. “

 

We have already said, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Rom 3: 23) Jesus is God’s provision for man’s sin. It is only through Him that we experience God’s love and God’s plan for our life. Jesus died in our place. (Rom 5:8) God demonstrated His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

 

(1Cor. 15) Christ died for our sins. He was buried. He rose on the third day. He is absolutely the only way to God. Jesus said “ I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:6)

 

We must indeed daily receive Jesus as our Savior by faith. (John 1:12) As many as receive Him to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to them who believe in His name. (John 3:3) For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourself, it is a gift of God. Not as a result of works, least any man should boast. (John 3:3) Jesus said I tell you the truth unless a man is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.

 

Jesus personally invited us. Behold, I stand at the door and knock if any man hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him. (Rev 3:10)

 

Here is a simple prayer that can be your prayer for Jesus to come into your life. If this is what you want, pray with me.

Dear God,

I have been living my life my own way, now I want to live in your way. I need you; I want you to take control of my life. I receive your Son, Jesus Christ, as my personal Savior and Lord. I believe He died for my sins and was raised from the dead. I surrender to Him as Lord. Come Lord Jesus, occupy the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.

 

You now are a child of God. You have power for this life, but you also receive eternal life. Each person receives Christ individually. This you did in that payer.

God Takes all Kinds

Jesus shows us that God takes all kinds.

 

Jesus’s nighttime meeting with Nicodemus (John 3:1-21) and His midday encounter with the Samaritan woman (4:5-42) show two of the many different ways in which He dealt with people. Whether it was with a respected leader like Nicodemus or an immoral streetwise Samarian woman. Jesus approached people on His own terms, as individuals with unique concerns. He modeled for us what it means to live, work and communicate the gospel message in a pluralistic society.

 

Nicodemus was an upper-class Jew, a Pharisee from one of the prominent families in Jerusalem.. He approached Jesus alone one night. The Lord confronted him with the need to be “born again”, then let him go and think it over. Nicodemus didn’t openly identify with Jesus until after the crucifixion when he helped prepare His body for burial.

 

The Samarian woman, on the other hand lived a scandalous life style having five husbands and then being with a live in male companion. As a result her community despised her. She was spoken to by Jesus in broad day light, in public, by herself and then in the company of others. Jesus told her of “living water” and the need to worship in spirit and truth. She responded much more quickly than Nicodemus. Her choice was backed by the community. John went on to record many other ways that Jesus dealt with people. Some became believers after they were fed, others after they were healed, and others after they saw the resurrected Christ. Some responded to the Lord’s miracles others to His teaching. There was no one kind of response to Jesus.

Mark 1 and 2

This is writing about Chapters 1 and 2 of the Book of Mark. This first paragraph is a summary of last week’s lesson on Chapter 1.

We learned some important spiritual lessons from this chapter. To begin with, if the Son of God came as a servant, then being a servant is the highest calling. It would seem we are never more like Jesus than when we are serving others. Second, God shares His authority with His servants. When we are serving those in need are we not doing the will of God? Remember this- if you are going to be a servant, be sure you have compassion. People who come to you for help will rarely ask if it is convenient. But, isn’t it a great privilege to follow the example of Jesus and meet the needs of others? Isn’t that the mark of a Christian life? Not everything for us but meeting others needs.

Chapter 2

The crowd wanted to see Jesus heal the sick and cast out demons. News of the remarkable man spread all over Galilee. This indeed interfered with His message of the gospel. Jesus knew how shallow was their thinking and how great their need.

The Lord often found it necessary to leave the city and go into the wilderness to pray. We should follow His example and take time from people and things in order to pray to the Father and through prayer be revitalized. Have a place of prayer in your home.

In this chapter, the Lord makes it clear that He came to bring all who would trust Him three wonderful gifts:

Forgiveness (Mark 2:1-12)

Fulfillment (Mark 2:13-22)

Freedom (Mark 2:23-3:12)

Forgiveness. Jesus was staying at Peter’s house and using it has His headquarters while he was in Capernaum. The people, uninvited, came to His house in droves. Such a crowd. Some truly needy people probably could not fight the crowd to get help. A paralyzed man had four friends. They lowered him through the roof with faith that Jesus would heal him. Jesus did. Why do we not have that healing today? Here is what Jesus saw. He looked up. Houses then had flat roofs that were usually accessible by means of an outside stairway. It would not be difficult to remove the tiles, lattes and grass that covered the roof and make a hole large enough to fit their friend though. This is just what the four friends did. They indeed had faith. Difficulties didn’t stop them. How many people said there is no sense trying to get to Jesus today? Maybe we can come back tomorrow. The four men dared to do some thing difficult in faith. Jesus saw their faith. When faith is seen by God, prayers are answered.

Jesus immediately went to the heart of the paralyzed man’s problem- sin. He forgave his sin and also healed him. Not all sickness comes from sin. In John 9:1-3, we find the story of a man blind from birth. Jesus said neither this man or his parents have sinned. Forgiveness was the greatest miracle that Jesus ever performed. It meets the greatest need, costs the greatest price, and brings the greatest blessing.

Notes on Jewish religious groups at the time of Christ

Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees and the Essenes

Scribes-Mark 2:6- A Jewish class of learned men who made a study of the law. They were also called lawyers and where devoted to the preservation of the law. They developed a complicated system of teaching. Scribes often served as judges in Jewish courts. They were the originators of the synagogue service and were greatly respected.

Pharisees- Mark 2:16- Of the three prominent societies of Judaism at the time of Christ, Pharisees, Sadducees and the Essences, the Pharisees were the most influential. Pharisees means separated ones. They pledged to obey every facet of the Jewish law and tradition. They paid tithes and a temple tax. Pharisees believed in predestination, the immortality of the soul, and in a final reward for good works. They also believed that the soul of the wicked was forever under the earth. As you can see they bitterly opposed Jesus and His teachings. (Read Matt. 23)

Sadducees- They accepted the Law, but not oral traditions. They denied the resurrection, immortality of the soul and the spirit world. The Sadducees opposed Christ and the church.

The Essenes- In Christ’s time they lived a simple life, mostly unmarried. Most Essenes lived together in settlements, but some did live in cities with the Jews. They kept up their numbers by adopting other people’s children. The Essenes did not participate in the temple worship but observed the Sabbath day strictly and greatly venerated Moses. Many of them died in wars against the Romans. Some of the survivors became Christians.

Some additional notes.

The Scribes and Pharisees, as religious leaders, had every right to investigate Jesus, this new teacher. But they came with closed minds, not seeking the truth.

Why did the disciples of John the Baptist and the pharisees fast and not Jesus disciples?

Jesus ate with sinners. Jesus ate with disciples on the Sabbath picks corn. The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.

Jesus claimed His deity, not only by forgiving man’s sins and healing his body but by applying to himself the title “Son of Man” a title used fourteen times in Mark’s gospel.

Responding to the Response

The last post is Dad’s response to a letter written in the OVMA’s   (Ohio Veterinary Medicine Association) newsletter.   I read this and I could not help but try to recreate the letter that had been written by Tom.

 

I am sure Tom was writing a funny little letter about “pondering the meaning of life and veterinary medicine”. Dad took life a little too seriously to be amused by such an attempt at humor.

 

So Tom, opened by making a joke about how he is writing his letter, now, while the house is quite because the family is at church.   Wow, Tom, first big mistake. Dad was all over this bit of humor. Not all of the family was at church, was it, Tommy boy?

 

He must have also made reverence to his practice. Tom, apparently in his 50’s, sees his career as winding down and himself as past his prime. He is looking forward to retirement and the easy life I am guessing.

 

And, of course, Tom had some thoughts on marriage. He used the tired joke about telling your wife your sorry no matter what. Dad, I have never liked this joke either.

 

Tom must have also had some profound questions about how to be successful in his practice. I think Dad straightened him out pretty quickly.

 

I feel a little sorry for Tom. He is missing what life is really about and looking for comfort and an easy way out. Too bad he never received this letter. If he had I imagine He would have thrown it in the trash and said, ‘crazy old guy.’ But, maybe later after he thought about it a bit, he would have pulled it back out and done a little soul searching.

A Response to Tom

Good morning Tom,

 

It’s Friday morning (early). I’m eating breakfast after which I will put the finishing touches on the Bible study I will be teaching Sunday morning. By chance I picked up the OVMA newsletter and read your letter to us.

 

You need not ponder the meaning of life and veterinary medicine any longer. The Bible has the answers for you. God created man (male and female) in His own image. God’s purpose is for man to be joined with a wife in marriage and thereby they become one flesh. This family formed by God reflects our identity, life, and power that come from God.

 

You stated that on Sunday morning the family was in church. That, of course, is not true. As you are part of the family, for the family to be in church you too must be with them. Why must you be there? Two reasons

1) To learn the will of God

2) To be a huge influence along with your wife.

 

My wife and I, married 51 years, have 7 children, 6 married and no divorces. 18 grandchildren, and all are in church almost every Sunday.   Man is a spiritual being whose intelligence and self-determination should reflect God’s will, and each one of us must be accountable to that lifestyle.

 

We should never be pleased to live on a level lower than that which God has made it possible for us to live. We should strive to be the best we can be and to reach the highest levels we can reach, in our spiritual life, our family life and our life in our chosen profession. To do less is to be unfaithful stewards of the life entrusted to us.

 

As a 79-year-old active practice owner, I can assure you an over 50-practice owner should just be approaching his prime. Our two practices with 17 veterinarians and about 120 employees continue to grow. I can’t tell you the number of times I have thanked the Lord for all of this.

 

As to the marriage, never say I’m sorry, as you look you wife in the eye every morning. You say, “I love you”, followed with a kiss and a hug.

 

As to success in practice- it’s simple.

1) be good at what you do.

2) Fair fees, fair to the client and fair to yourself.

3) Be available. It’s difficult to render a service with the front door locked.

(8:00AM – 11:00 PM)

4) Always –always tell clients the truth.