Faith, Love & Health

Archive for the category “Spiritual Growth”

Susanna

Do you rememer the lyrics from the song Oh SusannaStephen Foster wrote the song back in 1847.  I really don’t remember where I heard the song as I was growing up, but I know I heard it somewhere.  Well today I want to talk about Susanna, but not the lady from Alabama.  The Susanna that I want I want to highlight on is the Susanna that we read about in scripture in the New Testament.  She is only mentioned once in scripture, but let see what scripture says about her. 

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.  Luke 8:1-3

One of the things that we see about her is that she was either demon possessed or had an incurable disease.  We know that she had an encounter with Christ.  She was set free from a stronghold and then followed Christ and the twelve disciples, helping support the ministry of Christ through her own means.  We really don’t know what type of means Susanna had, but whatever she had she was willing to use it to help promote the kingdom of God.  Some great things that I see revealed in her life is:

#1 She was a woman that overcame a huge obstacle in her life through the healing power of Christ.  The difficulty in those who struggle with a life controlling problem is that they have to cope with the sickness until they receive the healing.  My mother in law lives with me and has a chronic illness and everyday she must overcome the pain and limitations she has due to this illness.  We continue to believe and wait for the healing, but waiting can be difficult.  Susanna overcame limitations in her life until the healing power of Christ came.  This gives all of us who are waiting on our healing great hope. 

#2 Susanna was totally surrender to Christ and willing to give of herself to help proclaim the kingdom of God.  We live in a culture today that expects the pastoral leadership to do the work of church while everyone else watches.  We call this the consumer mentality.  This was not the case for Susanna, she was serving and giving her time, energy and whatever she may of had to support the ministry of Christ. Many of us think about Jesus’ leadership team being mainly the twelve disciples, but Christ had a huge support leadership team, like Susanna who enabled Him to minister. They helped prepare their conference meetings, where they were going to stay and much more. 

#3  I already said this, but I want to make sure we don’t neglect to understand that Susanna gave of her own means.  She managed her resources well and gave what she had to make sure that the ministry of Christ could have the resources needed to continue. I know in the back of minds we are saying to ourselves that Jesus didn’t need Susanna’s support, Jesus could have made food and any other supplies needed to just appear as he spoke them to life.  I would agree that he could have done this on a regular basis, but that would have been a disservice he would have done to his twelve disciples, if he choose to raise up his core ministry team without teaching them the value of the body of Christ.  We all have different giftings and talents to edify and build each other up.  I have to believe that Christ encouarged his beleivers to operate according to the giftings and function in accordance to his teaching about the body of Christ. 

I know it is so easy to pass by the gospel of Luke and not give attention to Susanna, but when we do this, we neglect to see the need that each of us have for Christ to take care of our needs and enable us to be the church.  An active church that brings life giving change through Christ as we come in contact with people in our everyday life. 

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Rhoda

Some people we read about in the Bible we don’t have a clear picture of their character, but we can see their actions and how they respond to situations.  One of the people we read about in scripture is the servant girl Rhoda.  The only thing we really know about Rhoda is that she serves in Mary’s house.  It would also appear that she was a follower of Christ.  

 The only time Rhoda is mentioned in scripture is once in the books of Acts:   

Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door.   When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”  “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”   – Acts 12:13-15

The picture that we see in this passage is that Mary’s house is full of praying believer’s, seeking the face of God.  I’m sure they were interceding for Peter.  While everyone was in prayer Rhoda hears a knock on the outer entrance door and goes to answer the door.  Rhoda then hears a familiar voice, it is Peter (Apostle Peter) and she became so over-whelmed after hearing the voice of Peter that she ran inside the house to tell everyone!  I love the response of everyone.  You’re crazy Rhoda it’s just an angel you are hearing, but she continues to insist that it was Peter at the door.  Then finally they hear Peter knocking on the door and they see for themsleves who is at the door.  It was Peter! 

A couple things stand out as I read this story: 

#1 The servant girl must of built relationships with others (She wasn’t passive relationally when around people.) or been around Peter a lot.  For her to recognize his voice without opening the door communicates to us that Peter must of ministered at Mary’s house on a regular basis.  Rhoda must of been a regular part of this church and committed to those in the body of Christ.

#2 Rhoda was confident and persistent in what she believed.  She wasn’t a passive servant girl, but one who stood strong on what she believed.  This is a needed mentality in the church today.  We need to be confident in who we are in Christ and persistent  in communicating Biblical truth to edify and build the body of Christ. 

#3 Without stretching out this story too far, I believe that she was a woman of prayer.  We see in this passage that the church was gathered together in prayer for Peter and Rhoda was also there. We could say that Rhoda was their doing her job, but her excitement after hearing Peter’s voice was so large, I believe she was there praying, also.  It would be as exciting as praying for God to help us in a difficult situation and in the middle your prayer God brought the provision.  Who wouldn’t be excited! 

As we look through the window of Rhoda’s life we see just a glimpse of who she was, but we must not forget the huge role that she played in the life of the body of believers.  She was a key person in the life of those who were part of the church that met in Mary’s house.  It’s the servants of the church that get the job done.  Without the servants the main leaders would not be able to do their job.

Man of God – Unknown

There a few people that read about in the Bible that we have no idea what their name is.  We read about one of these individuals in 1 Kings the 13th chapter.  The only name that is given to this man is “Man of God.”  We don’t know much about his background, but we do know that God used this man to communicate to Jeroboam after he became King and began building false idols throughout Judea.  One of Jeroboam’s greatest fears was that the people would go to Jerusalem and pledge their allegiance to King Rehoboam (King Solomon’s Son) rather than supporting his kingdom. 

After the Man of God gave the word of the Lord to King Jeroboam, the king was furious and stretched out his hand to have him seized, but when the king did this, his hand shriveled up.  Then the king begged for the Man of God to intercede to God on his behalf to have he hand restored.  When the man of God did this, King Jeroboam’s hand was restored. 

After this, the King invited the Man of God to go back to the palace for some food, drink and a gift with him, but the man of God explained, “I cannot turn back and go with you, nor can I eat bread or drink water with you in this place.  I have been told by the word of the LORD : ‘You must not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way you came.‘ ” So the man of God departed in a different direction then he originally came.  You would think at this point all was well, but it gets sticky! 

 The son’s of a old prophet who lived In Bethel was at the altar where all of this took place and told their father what happened.  After hearing all that took place the old prophet told his son’s to saddle his donkey so that he could go find the man of God.  After traveling in the direction that man of God left, the old prophet find the man of God sitting under an Oak tree.  The old prophet ask are you the man of God that God used in Bethel?  He responded by saying “Yes I am he.”  Then the prophet asked for the man of God to come to his house for food and drink, but the man of God says, ” I cannot turn back and go with you, nor can I eat bread or drink water with you in this place.  I have been told by the word of the LORD : ‘You must not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way you came.‘ ” Then the old prophet lies and tells him that he was a prophet and an angel appeared to him and said it was okay for the man of God to come to his house for food and drink, so then the man of God agreed and went home with the prophet. 

Finally they arrive at the old prophet’s home and a word of the Lord come to the old prophet.  ‘You have defied the word of the LORD and have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you.  You came back and ate bread and drank water in the place where he told you not to eat or drink. Therefore your body will not be buried in the tomb of your fathers.’”  After the man of God finished eating and drinking he left and on his way back home a lion met him and killed him. Later the old prophet learns what happened to the man of God saddles up his donkey and brings the man of God back to Bethal and has him buried in the old prophet’s grave. 

There are a couple things that stands out to me as I read about the man of God. 

1.  We should never take what God has spoken to us lightly. 

2.  Don’t defile what God has entrusted you with.

3.  Listen to God for yourself, don’t let someone tell you what God is speaking to you.

I think the man of God’s mistake was he allowed someone else to speak into his life and he listened to them, when he had originally heard from God for himself and this caused him his life.  We need to make sure that we are men and women of God that listen to God and not others.  When we listen to God, we have the chance to live in complete obedience and that is when we become true men and women of God. 

Anna the Prophetees

One of my favorite things to do is watch people.  Especially the elderly.  I find many of the things that the elderly do are humerous.  (I want to make it clear that I am in no way making fun of the elderly.  In fact I have a great respect and honor for many of the elderly that I have spent time with.)  Some of the things that I love to watch older people do are how older couples relate to each other, how they enjoy life, what is funny to them and what they value in life.  Today I want to focus on one amazing elderly woman who God chose to use while she was in her 80’s.  Check out this scripture:

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.  She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.  Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.  Luke 2:36-38

Many of us have read about the prophetess Anna in scripture, though we don’t know much about her, we do know that she was a devout Jew.  We also know that her father was named Phanuel who was from the Tribe of Asher.  She was married for seven years and then her husband passed away. 

What is simply amazing to me is the devotion that Anna had to God.  She wasn’t just a Sunday attender, she was devoted to worship.  Night and day she could be found praying and fasting.  I want us to stop and take note that she was recognized as a devout Jew because she was caught seeking after God.  When people seen her, she was regularly seeking after God.  I believe it was due to her devotion to God, that God could trust her to use her as a prophetees.   When we place a value on prayer we hear God’s voice more clearly and God is able to use us more regularly. 

Some of the keys for God to use us are:

1. Can God trust us with the information that He reveals to us? 

2. Will we know what to do once God reveals truth to us?

3.  We must not look to recieve the glory, God must be the focal point of our worship.

I know most people in today’s culture don’t give attenetion to the elderly as past generations did, but we can find rich understanding and insight when we choose to watch and learn how past generations were used by God.  Then if we apply these timeless truths to our life, we too could be the people that are written about in todays culture due to the amazing work of God and Savior – Jesus Christ. 

Grandparents of The Faith – Lois

For many of us our grandparents play a big role in our lives.  We remember the special times that they had spent with us throughout the years, the hugs, and of course for those special grandparents – their faith.  I know I have had the honor to have great grandparents of faith in my family.  They have been a source of encouragement and inspiration to my life and to those who have come in contact with them throughout the years. 

Timothy also had a grandparent of faith, her name was Lois.  We see in scripture that Paul was reminded of her sincere faith through the life of Timothy.  Paul said, “that the same faith that was in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, I see in you.” (2 Timothy 1:5)  What a commemoration to Timothy’s grandmother.  Her life so inspired Paul that he took note of her sincere faith.  The best way to describe this sincere faith is to say that it was genuine – without hypocrisy. It is an individual who relentlessly follows after Christ no matter the circumstances, pain or loss.  She is one that other believers would look to for spiritual insight and hope in the mist of their challenges in life.   Now Paul tells Timothy, “I see her in you!”   What a great honor those words must have been to young Timothy.  To say that this woman of faith has lived a life that has transfered to his mother and now to Timothy.  This must have been a tremendous source of courage to keep pressing forward.  I’m sure that is why Paul continues by saying, “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (2 timothy 1:6)  Keep going, your grandmother had it, your mom had it and you have it too!  Keep going!  Pursue everything that God has for you. 

 Lois lived a life that kept living and now Timothy continued to live out his sincere faith and service just like his grandmother did. 

I’d like to say thank you to all of the grandparents of faith.  You have inspired and left a legacy of faith that the Timothy’s of our day long to continue. 

Onesimus

As we read through the Epistles we see that Paul’s ministry went far beyond a Sunday morning service.  He took personal interest in his followers.  One of his followers that is newly converted he calls his son.  Being a son goes beyond taking personal interest in a person, it says you are part of my family.  It communicates to us that Paul was willing to give part of his life to invest in his son and even help provide for his needs.  Some might read this and think it to be an exaggeration, but scripture reveals that Paul did give this kind of care to his new son, Onesimus

Onesimus was a fugitive slave that ran away from his master Philemon, who lived in Colosse.   He probably stole things from his master to use for trade for his well being as he fled to Rome.  When he arrives in Rome he came in contact with the apostle Paul and became a convert of Jesus Christ.  Paul then sent Onesimus back to his master Philemon with a letter…this is a must read: 

yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus—  I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains.  Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.  I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you.  I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced.  Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good— no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.  So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.  If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.  I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self.  I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ.  Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.  – Philemon 1:9-21

Colossians 4:8-10

As we read the letter to Philemon we read the heart of a father to a son. Paul shares that Onesimus is dear to his heart and that he is sending him back not as a slave but as a brother to Philemon.  Paul doesn’t stop by just sending Onesimus back to Philemon, Paul says, “If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.”  This mentality really is hard for many of us to picture.  As many of us have never experience an individual that has placed such a high value on us. To welcome us with open arms and to walk us through such a difficult situation. 

I see two things in this snapshot of Onesimus’ life.  The first thing that I recognize is the importance for all of us to give personal attention to those who are serving with us in our ministries.  Ministry is more than a Sunday service or a Bible lesson, it is giving our lives away to fellow believers, supporting and encouraging the body of Christ to be the church.  It is also a beautiful picture of God’s love for us as His children, to cancel our debt and mark us as sons and daughters. 

Rufus

Paul had an amazing family working with him in his ministry.  Serving with him and holding him up in prayer.  The mother of the family took personal time to serve Paul and was like a mother to him.  Though the whole family is amazing, I want to focus on one of the son’s of the family – Rufus.  To give you a little background, Rufus’ father is Simon from Cyrene who carried the cross for Christ.  Though we don’t know much more about this family, we do know that God used this family to support and encourage Paul in his ministry.  Here is what scripture says about Rufus. 

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.  – Matthew 15:21

Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. – Romans 16:13

 The only phrase that we see mentioned in scripture about Rufus is that he is “chosen in the Lord.”  We all know that we are God’s chosen, but Paul must have seen something special in Rufus’ life that set him apart from other believers.  If he took after both of his parents it would be easy to say that he had a deep love for God and maybe even nurturing like his mother. 

I believe the most important phrase for all of us to hear is that “we are God’s chosen,” marked by God’s character.  We, like Rufus, should carry God’s character to all men.  If you think about it Rufus’ father carried the cross of Christ, but Rufus choose to carry the character of God to support the ministry of Paul and probably to reach people with the gospel message.  May it be our prayer today that our lives be a blessing to those we come in contact with and to further the message of Christ to the world.   

Simon of Cyrene

Many of us have read the passage of scripture that says to “take up our cross and follow Christ,” but one man that we read about in scripture literally took and carried the cross of Christ.  His name is Simon of Cyrene.  I can’t imagine the emotion and thoughts that must of raced through Simon’s mind.  Scripture tells us

Luke 23:26-27:  that As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.  A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.

Matthew 27:32-33:  As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull).

(Matthew 15:21)

Simon was coming in from the country expecting to get to his destination, but on his way he was seized and made to carry Jesus’ cross.  The act of carrying Jesus’ cross must have been life altering, to be forced to aid in the execution of the son of God must have weighed heavily upon Simon.  The shock of being forced to carry the cross is emotional enough, but to think that Simon had the opportunity to serve our Savior at the hour of his greatest pain must have taken this brutal crucifixion and transformed it into a life changing act of worship. 

To carry our cross is more then a pain ridden path to death. To carry our cross daily  reveals a surrendered heart of love for the one who bore our sin, shame and our greatest pain – even death on a cross!  How will you choose to carry your cross?  In shame and regret or in surrenderence as an act of worship? 

Church Marketer – Tychicus

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I am really intrigued by the staff that Paul had around him to help him serve the many churches that he ministered to.  One of the guys that Paul speaks about is a faithful church marketer.  Now he isn’t going around making billboards or t-shirts, but he is promoting Paul’s ministry by going around to churches sharing what God is doing in Paul’s ministry.  He would of probably been a guy Church Marketing Sucks would have highlighted on there papyrus blog.  The marketer that I am talking about is Tychicus.  He is mentioned five times throughout scripture, but let’s focus on a couple of those scripture to take a window peek at his life. 

Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. Colossians 4:7-8

Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing.  I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you.  Ephesians  6:21-22

Acts 20:4  2 Timothy 4:12    Titus 3:12

Tychius was not only a marketer, but he was an encourager, a great communicator, administrater and someone that Paul could trust and depend on.  This marketer had multiple jobs within his area of ministry like many of us do today. 

When I see who Paul had surrounding him in his ministry, it makes me ask myself, who do I have on my ministry team?  Most of us have a couple great leaders that are working with us, but for others it is time to begin building your ministry team. We limit ourselves and our ability to do things with excellence when we choose to do things by ourselves.  We all need administrators – those who can organize, marketers, encourager’s, and those who have great communication skills to help us get the message out about what God is doing within our ministry.  This doesn’t happen overnight, we must first begin by identifying who we already have on our team, all we need to do is find the ministry area that fits them, and help empower and equip them to be affective.  When we do this our ministry will begin to reach people we could have never reached alone. 

Demas

no Turning Back

One of the hardest parts of ministry for me is investing into a person’s life for a season and a couple years down the road they make a choice not to follow Christ.  They begin connecting with wrong relationships that lead them astray or they just choose that the pleasures of this world is more valuable then following Christ.  So today let’s look at Demas who was one of Paul’s followers who abandoned him after ministering with him for 2 years. 

 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. Colossians 4:14

Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.   Philemon 1:23-24

Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.  2 Timothy 4:9

Many of us have heard Bible stories of the rich young ruler who had to chose to follow Christ and he didn’t, but I found a guy named Demas who was a co-labourer with Paul.  Demas went through many difficult situations with Paul, we know this because Paul held Demas in high regards, and was even imprisoned with Paul for the sake of the Gospel.  What is so hard to comprehend is when a person has been exposed to the miraculous, has sat under personal teachings of Paul and even stood up for his faith; he chose to deny Christ and follow after his own fleshly desires.  I’m sure Paul was sadden as he shared the news of his once companion in the good fight of faith and now has been deserted. 

The thing we must always remember is that Demas didn’t deny Paul, he denied Christ and made a personal choice to follow the world.  We in our ministries must not take the choices of those serving with us personal, it is spiritual.  The enemy would like nothing better than to make those who are serving in our ministries to stumble and follow after their fleshly desire, we must never stop believing in prayer that God would keep our people strong and do our best to equip each one of them. 

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