A Rainy Day on the Prairie

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

It’s the Sunday after Christmas and here on the prairie, it is stormy, rainy and cold. I actually enjoy days like this, especially when I don’t have to go anywhere. But I do worry about my friends the cows, horses, camels and the lone zebra I have seen around. I hope they are all safe.

Since today is the 27th I have had some time to think about things and do a little reflection. I have been thinking about how I am going to approach Bible reading and study for 2016. Today, I finally have a plan. As far as reading I am just going to start the usual thing I have done in the past and that is to start reading in Genesis and Matthew and just read through. I don’t really care if it takes me one year or three years to finish. But as far as my other times with the Lord I hope to get into some study and dig into things. I have been studying the minor prophets and plan to continue with that. Actually, I started today with the book of Malachi and that is what I want to talk a little about today.

Just as a background, Malachi was written after the 70 years of captivity of the Jewish people. God worked out several things to put the people back in Jerusalem. He moved King Cyrus to make a decree to allow the people to go and rebuild the temple. He provided the right leaders and the right time to get the job done.

With all of that, one would think that the Jews would be grateful and obedient but the soon fell into the old routine of becoming lax and lazy with their worship of God. So, in this case, God sent Malachi to point their sins and bring the people back to reality. Malachi pointed out several sins of the people. No wonder why the Old Testament Prophets were so unpopular!!

The first sin Malachi pointed out was that the people doubted that God loved them (Malachi 1:1-5). Despite several evidences to the contrary, the people still doubted. The most plain evidence is found in  Verse 1:2a where God plainly says, “I have loved you,” but the people retorted with, “how have you loved us?” Then God goes on to explain several proofs of His love. I won’t go into them here. Suffice it to say that God has always stated and shown His love for His people. Even in times of chastisement and judgment, He still loved them.

As I read and studied this today, I couldn’t help but to think how timely this is for us today. Where is our Love for God. Do we truly love Him with all of our heart, soul and might (Deuteronomy 6:5). I had to confess that my love is often one-sided, half-hearted and lethargic. It is interesting that in the book of Revelation, the first sin that God talks about in His message to the seven churches is that the Ephesians had left their first love!” (Revelation 2:4). How easy it seems for us to take God and His love for granted.

I pray for myself and the church in general, that we will do whatever it takes for us to renew our love and trust in God. This has been a hard year for me as I am sure it has been hard for many of God’s people. If you are like me, you look around you at your own life and at what is going on in the world, and we ask, “where are you God?” It is a hard saying, but God owes us nothing. Nor does He often give us an explanation for His actions. Why should He, He is God!!! But He still deserving of our love, trust and reverence.

The Bible says the just shall live by faith. I pray that this year for us at Stonepoint will be a year that we grow in faith and love for Our Lord!! And that our love for Him will result in an increase of humility and service toward and for Him. God give us grace and strength to follow Him closely in 2016. God bless you!!

Christmas-The Story of the Birds

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

I haven’t heard the below broadcast for many years, but I used to really like it. It is by Paul Harvey, a Christian and radio news broadcaster. He went to be with the Lord in 2009. If you have a chance, you would be blessed if you googled “Paul Harvey-The Story of the Birds” and listened to it. Mr. Harvey has a wonderful way with words. Anyway, this is my offering to you for Christmas. May you all have a truly blessed Christmas and from this story, see the miracle of our LORD’s incarnation. The story is just below:

The man to whom I’m going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn’t make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man.

“I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he’d much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.

Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound…then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud…at first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.

Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it.

Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them…he tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms…instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.

And then, he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me…that I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him.

“If only I could be a bird,” he thought to himself, “and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safe, warm…to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand.”

At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas.

And he sank to his knees in the snow.

A Different Spirit

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

We have been going over Old Testament characters in church lately and how they point to Jesus the True and Better. So today I thought I would tell the story of one of my favorite Bible personalities, Caleb. Caleb doesn’t so much point to a true and better Jesus as he does give us some pointers about how to be a Christ follower.

The bulk of Caleb’s story is found in Numbers 13-14. It is a truly one of the saddest stories in the Bible and rather than me go over the entire setting in this blog post, I would encourage you to read those two chapters for yourself. I guarantee if you pay attention to what you are reading, you won’t get bored. Basically these two chapters tell about probably the greatest failure in the history of God’s people, Israel. Here God brought them to the brink of the Promised Land. All they had to go in and take it. But they failed.

God told Moses to send out 12 spies to check out the land. They came back with a report about the land that it was rich and plentiful. But they also came back defeated and in fear. They reported that there were “giants” in the land and that the Israelites were “grasshoppers” compared to them in our own sight. Numbers 13 ends by saying the spies gave a bad report about taking the land to the people (13:32).

Numbers 14 gives an account of what followed. The people cried all night in fear. Joshua and Caleb told them not to rebel against the Lord and that He was with them. They said in essence, “we will have the people for lunch.” But the people wanted to stone Joshua and Caleb for what they were saying.

The rest of Numbers 14 talks about God’s final judgment in the matter. God wanted to strike the people dead and start over. But Moses, in his characteristic dealing with the people, talked God out of killing them outright. God changed His mind but said the people would not enter the Promised Land and their carcasses would rot in the wilderness. The chapter finally comes to a conclusion with the Israelites trying to make amends (v. 39-45) and saying they would go up and do battle for the land. Moses told the people not to go because God was no longer with them. But the people went up anyway. Verse 44 is truly sad where it says, “Neither the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses left the camp. The people went out without the blessings of God and Moses and were soundly defeated. From then on, they journeyed in the wilderness for 40 years until all of them died except for Joshua and Caleb. This is a totally tragic story.

So why do I like this story so much? Because of one verse that I haven’t mentioned until now. Numbers 14:24 says, but My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it. This is huge!! While I am sure Joshua must have had a different spirit too, since he was appointed the leader after Moses, God points out Caleb alone of possessing this spirit.

What was this different spirit? Here are some of the characteristics that I found about Caleb that allowed him to be a Christ follower:

  • Caleb had a single mind and followed God fully. We cannot live in two worlds James 1:8). We will always be bombarded with choices to follow God or take the easy way out. Caleb chose to follow God.
  • Caleb saw things through the eyes of faith. Caleb was one of the spies and saw the giants and the fortified cities like all the others. He just didn’t see things the same way. He had faith that God would be with them.
  • Caleb didn’t rebel against God. This is one of the worst things we can do as a Believer. Here is a secret. When you sense yourself groaning and complaining against God you have taken the first step into rebellion. And if you don’t catch yourself, you will be in full rebellion against God.
  • Caleb wasn’t ruled by circumstances. Things looked bad, but Caleb did not look at the circumstance, but rather he looked at God and His promises. See Hebrews 12:1-3.
  • Caleb had the courage to stand alone. He didn’t join in with the other spies like the rest of the people did. I have heard that it cost nothing to go along with the crowd. But it costs everything to stand up to the crowd. I pray for that kind of courage for myself and for the church.

In conclusion, let me say this. This month alone, I have failed in every one of these points. I feel like a complete failure (sounds like another blog post topic). I lost sight of God; I groaned and complained, I even gave up for a few days of trying to follow God. I let my current circumstance rule my thoughts and actions. I lost my faith that God even cared about what I was going through. Finally, something I read last night in a book by Francis Chan struck a chord in me and made me start to think about what I was doing and where I was headed. I am not out of it yet, but we can talk about that in a later blog. For now, I would just like to encourage us to seek to have a different spirit and to follow God closely. We need to have the spirit that Caleb had more than ever. May God give us the grace to believe and trust Him completely!

 

David & Goliath

five-smooth-stonesBob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

I sometimes wonder why I was asked to write these blog posts. I am not a blogger, I couldn’t set one up if I had to. I don’t have any special connection with God and I am not even a good writer. But I am also glad I get to participate at Stonepoint in this way, because it gives me an opportunity to express things that I wouldn’t ordinarily do. So, if you don’t mind, I would just like to say a few things today.

Can I admit something to you? This has been a really tough year for me. It seems like there has been one struggle after another, both personally and spiritually. My main emotions all year have been discouragement and depression. Now, I know as a Christian, I am not supposed to let my emotions rule me, but that is where I have been headed. Can I admit another thing? I have been living in Romans 7 and fighting sin of late. If you have read any of my previous posts lately, you know that I have truly been challenged about being a Christ follower. But I have also been struggling with sins (and I use that term purposely) lately. Sins like self-pity, wanting to please myself, fear, pride, doubt anger and lack of faith and patience. Sometimes I forget that some of these are even sins. I write them off as character traits that I need to work on. This last Friday all this came to a crisis point. I left work just totally defeated and ready to pack up and leave the ministry. I also told a good friend that I could not talk with them any longer for fear of bringing them away from their walk with the Lord. I can’t tell you how much that hurt me, and in all honesty I did not follow through with that. I know, to you this may sound like I am a little psychotic, and I am sorry. I can assure you, that is not the case. But it is a tough spiritual battle.

So, what does all this have to do with David and Goliath at Stonepoint today? Well today I got up as usual for 8:30AM service so I could do my normal greeting. It has been a wet and dreary weekend with lots of rain (I actually really like that for the most part). I arrived at church and did my greeting like I always do. The music was nice as always, and then Pastor Brandon started the message. We have been doing a series called “Jesus the True and Better” for the past five weeks. Today Pastor Brandon spoke about David and Goliath. Now, we all have heard that story before, probably so much that we just gloss over it when we read it or just skip it all together. But, in all honesty, I have never really tried to see Jesus in this story. It was just another Old Testament Bible story to me.

As I sat there listening to the message a few thoughts came to me about my life. One thing I saw was that I have been living in a lot of fear this past year. Fear of my future, fear facing surgery for my knees, fear that God is not in control of things, fear that He even cares. Today, Pastor Brandon brought out this same thing about fear in the army of Israel from I Samuel 17. Here was this giant of a man in the Philistine army harassing the Israeli army day after day. He taunted the soldiers and King Saul to send out one man to face him in battle. The winner would win the war for his side and the loser would be their servants. There was no one man in the army willing to face Goliath.  I saw at this point that Israel was fearful of the Philistines just as we Christians are against Satan today. As I started to soak things in, I realized I was just giving in to doubt and fear. Have you been asking God, where He is right now? I have! I have asked God for specific answers to prayer for the universal church, for persecuted Christians, for myself, for the ministry and for Stonepoint. Sadly, I see things just getting worse. Thus comes the depression and discouragement.

But today I saw a little glimmer of hope in this study. Here are a few examples:

1. Daniel was the least known of his family. He was not in the army, and his brothers even asked him why he had come to them. Jesus too, the King of kings, was not recognized by the Jews upon his arrival. Isaiah 53 gives us a clear picture of this when it says, “…He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.” (Isaiah 53:2). Jesus had no earthly credentials that would make us notice Him. Yet, He was the King of kings who came to save His people.

2. Goliath was a picture of Satan in this passage as David was a picture of Christ. Goliath harassed the Israeli army and caused them to shrink back in fear. We sometimes forget we have an enemy and he is very powerful. But we cannot shrink back in fear. What did David do when the Philistine came toward the battle line? Verse 48 says that as Goliath came toward David, that David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. David didn’t run. He attacked!! This spoke volumes. Sometimes I think that Satan is winning today. So instead of standing up to him I shrink back. David did not do this, but met his enemy head on, and defeated him with a slingshot. Jesus met Satan head on and defeated him at the Cross. Do we believe that? The way I live sometimes, I wonder if I do. Sure, intellectually I know this, but in my heart, where it counts, do I really believe? Oh, God!! I believe, forgive me in my unbelief, as the scripture says.

I could go on, but let me stop here. Maybe you aren’t having the struggles I have mentioned. If so, I praise God for that! But if you are like me, a weak, struggling Christ follower wannabe, take hope. Jesus hasn’t abandoned us. I urge you to keep following the Lord and not come to the place of quitting like I almost did last Friday. Yes, we have an enemy and he is strong. But we have a King and He is stronger. We cannot live the Christian life with out faith, and we cannot have faith without the Word of God. Let’s be in God’s Word and ask the Spirit to reveal it to us in a new way. Yes, there will be hard times ahead. Yes, we will have reason to fear, doubt and run. But let’s not do that. Let’s be that man (or woman) that Israel needed to face Goliath. One thing I would suggest is that you take time today and just ask God, through the Holy Spirit to reveal sin in your life. I did this today and the Spirit revealed several things, some of which I mentioned above. Then confess them to the Lord and claim 1 John 1:9 by faith. He is faithful and will forgive our sin. God is just waiting for us to come to Him. One more thing, our future is in His hands, not ours. He will be here and will go through all things we face with us. May God strengthen us to trust Him and to walk with Him by faith. God bless you!

True Discipleship

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

That is actually the title of a book that I have read many times in my life. It talks about what it really means to be a discipleship of Christ and explains the cost. I thought it was a fitting title as I wrap up my time reading the book Not a Fan. It has been a good and challenging study and I am still not there. That is one of my challenges, what does it take to be a true disciple? So, after many weeks of studying this subject, I thought I would put my final thoughts in this blog post.

I thought I would like to summarize by going over a passage in Luke 9:57-62. This passage talks about three people who came across Jesus’ path as He was traveling with his disciples. The first man actually came up to Jesus on his own and said basically, “I will follow You anywhere.” Jesus gives a curious answer and talks about foxes having holes and birds having nests but He Himself, has none of this. In today’s language, Jesus’ response was, “Dude!!! I got no home!!” I really didn’t understand His response until recently. What Jesus said was that following Him, would cost this man’s comfort and security. We are not really told what happened after that but the inference is that the man walked away.

Unlike the first encounter, Jesus came up to the second man and said “follow me.” Again, the second man basically said, “sure, Jesus, but first let me bury my father.” This was certainly not an unreasonable request. The man even started off his excuse by saying “Lord.” But is second word was “first.” (Lord, first let me go bury my father). Some scholars think that the man’s father was still alive, and that the man was basically saying that when his parents died, he would follow Jesus. Regardless of what the situation was Jesus wasn’t interested in his excuses. Jesus said in so many words, “let others stay back to take care of this, you go preach the Gospel.” Again, we are left with the inference that the man walked away and did not follow Jesus.

The third encounter was similar to both the others. First, it seems the man approached Jesus without being asked. Second, he also had an excuse. “I will follow You, Lord, but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” Jesus gives a strong rebuke here and tells the man that you need to follow me and not look back. The man was willing to follow Jesus. But that was not his first priority. He wasn’t willing to go “all in.” If you were at Stonepoint last January you may remember Pastor Brandon did a short series last January with the title “All In” here at church. It is appropriate. Jesus must be first with us holding nothing back. Otherwise it just will not work.

I know this sounds tough. Please know that I am not preaching at you. But studying about discipleship has really made me analyze my own life for several months now. Please also know that I have not fully reached the points that I am about to make. But I so desire this life of true discipleship. So here is the summary of my study.

  • Salvation is free. But being a Christ follower will cost us everything. Practically for me, that means I need to turn everything over to the Lord.  My house, how long I live and what I do with my life, my money, my reputation, my friends and relationships, everything. It all must be the Lord’s. What if Jesus tells you or me to sell our house, leave our home and go to (you name the worst place you would want to go). Would we be able to do that?
  • Jesus must be first in everything. We cannot make excuses or postpone decisions to follow Jesus when He calls us. When Jesus walked the beach and called Peter and his friends what was their response? The Bible says, they left everything and followed Him. No excuses, nothing held back.
  • There will be hardship and testing. We can expect Satan to challenge us in a decision to be a disciple of Jesus. I listened to some end of year speeches of our graduating class of students today. One young man mentioned that this year here at the ministry cost him many things, a possible marriage, giving up friends and family, etc. He made the decision to do that. I was proud of him.
  • Discipleship requires a daily dying to self. This is different for all of us, but basically I think it means that we need to make choices that will please and serve our Lord’s causes than our own causes.

So that’s about it. I wish I had room to quote the entire letter that the first missionary from America, Adoniram Judson, wrote to a man about marrying his daughter. But this post is already too long. Adoniram was in love with a young lady named Anne whom he wanted to marry and then leave for Burma (Myanmar).  He wrote a letter to her father asking for Anne’s hand. It was unlike any proposal letter ever written. He basically asked Anne’s father if he could part with Anne and never see her again. He further asked if he could accept Anne’s subjection to hardship, sufferings, fatal influences of the climate in India and Burma, insult, persecution and maybe an early and violent death. Some proposal letter, huh? Anne’s father told Adoniram that he would leave the decision to Anne. There is a letter that Anne wrote to her friend Lydia that said in part: “…I expect…to spend my days in this world in heathen lands. Yes, Lydia, I have about come to the determination to give up all my comforts and enjoyments here, sacrifice my affection to relatives and friends, and go where God in His providence, shall see fit to place me.”

Adoniram and Anne went to Burma. Adoniram was put in prison for over a year. While he was in prison Anne gave birth to their daughter Maria. Anne was sick and her milk dried up. But mercifully a guard at the prison would let Adoniram out of prison each evening so he could take the baby into the village and beg for women to nurse the baby. Soon after Adoniram was released, Anne died from spotted fever at the age of 37. If you have read this far, you might be thinking something like “what a wasted life.” But because of Adoniram’s and Anne’s life and sacrifice, the entire Bible was translated into Burmese. I read that today that there are some 3,700 congregations that all trace their beginning to the Judsons.

Sorry, I know I probably should have written about something more cherry and appropriate to the season, like how much God loves us and that gives us new life and all that. But discipleship is not about new life, it’s about dying to self. Being a sensitive and feeling person, my heart is hurt and is broken over my life in this area of discipleship. Would you please pray for me, that for whatever part of my life I have left (I am 68), that I will surrender all to Jesus and walk whatever He calls me to?  Thank you.

THE GREAT I AM!!!!

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

I’m sure most of you know the Christmas song Mary Did You Know? It’s a beautiful song and I have always liked it. The last line of the song goes like this: “this sleeping child you’re holding is the GREAT I AM.”

The first time I heard the term, I AM, was when I read it in Exodus chapter 3. You probably know the story. God Himself meets Moses in a burning bush and they have an interesting discussion. Moses made many excuses why he should not go back to Egypt. Included among these excuses was: “You are asking me to go back to your people in Egypt and tell them You have heard their prayers, and I don’t even know your Name (my paraphrase of Exodus 3:13). God’s answer always amazed me. God said my name is: I AM WHO I AM!!! Tell them that “I AM” has sent you. Yeah, right!!! I’m pretty sure Moses thought, “sure, they’ll buy that!!” But the Name THE GREAT I AM, is so totally intriguing.

God used the word JEHOVAH, or the great I AM when he talked with Moses. We use the word “YAHWEH” which meant “to be.” or “to become.” To take this a little further, Jehovah comes from the Hebrew word YHWH. This was so sacred to the Jewish people that they declared YHWH to be the unspeakable name of God. But to put it in simple terms for us, JEHOVAH (YHWH) means that God is the self-existent One who always was, always is, and always will be. He is also totally self-sufficient and sovereign. He is indeed, GOD OF THE UNIVERSE!!

The song asks, “Mary Did You Know?” According to the the Bible, the answer for Mary was yes. She did indeed know that she was going to give birth to the Son of God (Luke 1: 30-34). I would assume that most of us Christians today know that too, but I wonder if we really grasp it.

We get so wrapped up into “doing Christmas” that I think we hardly give it a thought as to what really happened that night so long ago. What happened was that GOD CAME THE WORLD IN HUMAN FORM TO REDEEM US FROM OUR SINS AND OFFER US ETERNAL LIFE. We know this, of course, but do we really let it sink in to our hearts. There is such a difference between knowing about God, and knowing God. The Bible says that demons know about God and shudder (James 2:19). Knowing about God simply is not enough.

My prayer for myself this Christmas season is this: Oh Lord, may this Christmas the one that You fill us with humility, brokenness and adoration for You, the eternal, everlasting, all-powerful, all-knowing and and all loving God of the universe. May we know YOU, not just about YOU. Knowing God should make us drop to our knees as it did to Elijah!!! I so desire that kind of relationship with God. I pray God will change us this Christmas. God bless you all during this Christmas season!!