In the Song of Solomon 2:15, we are exhorted to: "Catch us the foxes, The little foxes that spoil the vines, For our vines have tender grapes" (NKJV). Did you notice the word 'little?' Foxes are small. However, foxes can do a great deal of damage. Therefore, it says to 'catch' them.
This verse of Scripture serves as a warning to us! Oh, how we need to 'watch for those things that seem so innoncent and yet in reality do a lot of damage!
Rev. Harvey Neal, my pastor and mentor, once put it this way:
"The devil sends his many little foxes to spoil our lives as children of God.
The vine of humility can be ruined by the little fox of pride.
The vine of love can be ruined by the little foxes of envy, jealousy, and hatred.
The vine of loyalty and faithfulness can be ruined by the little fox of neglect.
The vine of industry can be ruined by the little fox of idleness.
The vine of truth can be ruined the little foxes of gossip and little 'white lies.'
The vine of generosity can be ruined by the little fox selfisheness.
The vine of compassion can be ruined by the fox of indifference.
The vine of spirituality can be damaged by the fox of materialism. And on and on we could go."
He went to say: "We need to watch for the little things that seem so innocent and harmless. They may not be as innocent or harmless as we think." I pray that you and I will be spiritually alert and watchful for the little foxes that can cause great damage to our lives and others. Let's get rid of them and walk in the Lord this day!
On Sunday nights, it is my delight to help in leading our Children in Action group. We are not a big group, but we are blessed group! We say the pledges, sing, learn Bible skills, study the Bible, do activities, enjoy a snack and of course we learn about missions and missionaries. This year our theme has been 'Tell the Story.'
Each month takes us to a different location around the world to see how the story of Jesus is being told. Generally we learn about two different missionaries each month and their families and pray for these missionaries and their work! We also learn about a missionary kid and pray for him or her before we leave!
In January, our theme was 'Tell the Story in Bulgaria.' Do you know where Bulgaria is located? It is West of the Black Sea and North of the Aegean Sea and basically above and between Greece and Turkey! [We also learn about geography!]. We learned about Cameron and Jennifer Phillips and Cheryl Argabright! They are working with the Roma people.
The Roma people used to be called Gypsies! Cameron has stated that reaching to the Roma people is not a very popular thing to do! They are looked down upon and are despised by many. This makes the work even more challenging! Cheryl is learning the language through the help of a tutor. Cheryl also gets to work with some of the orphans in Bulgaria.
One missionary among the Roma people that we didn't learn about is Boyd Hatchel. I met Boyd at seminary! In fact, we had Greek class togeether! He and his family have been living and working with the Roma people for ten years. The needs of the Roma people are very great!
Many lack in education and cannot read and struggle with finding jobs. Many are poor. Most of all they need Jesus! If you'd like to learn more, you can visit: www.romaministries.com . Let's pray for these missionaries and the Roma people. And let's pray that many in our own communties will come to know Jesus as their Savior. 'Tell the Story' begins at home!
The following is a brief devotional message prepared and presented by Rev. Harvey Neal, my pastor and mentor. He prepared this message for broadcast on January 6, 1994 for the "Homeward Bound" program on KHCB-FM Radio of Houston, Texas.
"Hi there. This is Harvey Neal with a suggestion. Let's trust God more in 1994. Henrietta Mears, a beloved Bible teacher and author, was asked late in her life what she would do differently if she could live her life over. Her answer was quick and to the point, "I would trust God more." None of us can go back and relive that past, but we can start any day and at any time to trust the Lord more the rest of our days. In fact, it's not too late to make a New Year's resolution to trust God more in this new year of 1994.
I must warn you that it is much easier to talk about trusting God more than it is to actually do it. It's easier to preach than it is to practice. However, that doesn't mean that we should be pessimistic and write it off as an impossiblity. God wants us to trust Him more, and He will help us to do that if we will allow Him.
There's a beautiful statement in the last part of verse 10 of Psalm 32. I'm reading that great statement from the New Century Version: "The Lord's love surrounds those who trust Him." The Psalmist said in Psalm 37:5 that if we will commit our way unto the Lord and trust also in Him that the Lord will bless us and bring to pass that which we trust in His care. Psalm 115:11 says that the Lord is a help and a shield to thsoe who trust in Him.
We should trust the Lord regardless, even when we do not understand. The Lord is going to bless those who trust Him. We must believe that becuse it is the truth. This is Harvey Neal reminding you of this great truth in Proverbs 3:5-6: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge HIm, and He shall direct your paths.""
As a pastor, I have been a part of nursing home ministries for a number of years now. I can say that I truly enjoy it. It's essentially another congregation. We have a good time in the Lord together. In my ministry in Baytown, a few from our congregation go with me to a certain nursing home. One of the church members who labor with us is a lady who is at least the same age as the ones that we minister to in this nursing home if not older than many of them. She plays the piano for us. She is often called upon to close our service in prayer. At times she has all of us to pray together by repeating the Lord's Prayer (the Model Prayer). I have been influenced by this lady's heart for this prayer and found myself going back to it on a more regular basis. When I use it in my devotional times, I first repeat the whole prayer word for word. I recommend doing so very slowly, very deliberately and from the heart. I then go back and repeat the first phrase or so and stop and put it into my own words and then I pray according to that section. I keep on in such a way until I have made my way through the whole prayer. I am glad for this dear lady who helped me to find my way back to the Model Prayer. Using it has been a help to me in communing with the Lord. Let me encourage you to rediscover the Lord's Prayer, like finding an old friend, and I pray that your communion with the Lord will be enriched.
P.S. It is found in Matthew 6:9-13
I have in some of my pastoral duites been with a person or with a family facing some critical moments in life. And I have at times in those more troubling situations been called upon to pray. And in some of those I'll admit to wondering to myself 'What do I pray about or ask for in this situation?"
Here are a few things I've learned about praying at such times:
1)Admit to the Lord that you feel like you don't have all the words
2)Ask for the Lord to guide you in your prayer
3)Ask for the Lord to move by His Spirit and to intercede with groanings that are beyond words
4)Focus on God and on some of His attributes (His power, presence, grace, help, changlessness)
5)Claim a promise or promises (like Proverbs 3:5-6 on guidance or Isaiah 40:29 for strength and so on).
6)Ask for God to work mightily in the situation and commit the person or family to the Lord
Such a prayer could sound like this:
"Lord God, I admit that I feel like I don't even have the words to pray, so Lord guide me as I pray for this dear family and may your Spirit taking these words and intercede on a deepr level. Father, we prasie You that You are the One we can always count on because you never change, and You have the strength and wisdom and grace that we need. Father, you have promised wisdom to those who ask for it and who do so without doubting, so by faith we ask for wisdom for this family. Aid them in their decision making. You've promised, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not in your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall make your paths straight." Even so Lord we come admiting we must have your guidance ,and we are trusting in you and trusting that You will keep your word and to make our paths straight. We thank you for working in their lives and this situation and commit them unto You in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen."
Have you ever heard someone make the remark, "I don't what to say" in regards to prayer? I have! Generally it is spoken by a young person who has been asked to pray. However, adults are not immune to making this statement either. I have found that many times the opposite is true in my own life: I don't know what to leave out in prayer!
Years ago I was taught to pray using the old acronym: ACTS.
ACTS stands for:
Adoration (praise to the Lord)
Confession (admitting and turning from our sins)
Thanksgiving (we have a lot to be thankful for)
Supplication (pray for self and others)/
After learning this simple guide for prayer, I then heard a sermon by Dr. Ed Young of Second Baptist Houston. He shared how his fingers are like a prayer list for him. I must confess that I cannot all of these years later remember what he said each of his fingers stood for in his usage of this technique. I did however tailor it for what works for me and each begins with an 'L.'
My five finger prayer list is (beginning with the thumb):
Loved ones (ring finger with marriage band on it),
Little ole me (pinky).
When I combine these two techniques, the ACTS guide and the five finger prayer list, I find that I have plenty to pray about. Try it. Tailor it for you. The Lord God Almighty longs for his children to draw near to Him in prayer and longs to respond with good things.
One of the best things I have added to my life is daily Bible reading. I cannot begin to describe to you how this has blessed and benefited my life. I first used a daily Bible reading schedule which you find in some Bibles. As years passed, I developed my own method.
My method is fairly simple. I read three chapters from the Old Testament and one chapter one from the New Testament each day. I read it slowly, carefully and most of all prayerfully.
I generally read the Old Testament straight through with one exception: I generally skip over First and Second Chronicles and read it at the end after Malachi. I will confess to reading parts of Leviticus and Numbers and 1 Chronicles quicker than other sections.
In the New Testament, I read by groups. I have a Matthew group, a Mark group, a Luke group, a Paul group and a John group.
After reading Matthew, I read: Hebrews, James, Jude.
After reading Mark, I read First and Second Peter.
After reading Luke, I read Acts.
In the Paul group, I read from Romans to Philemon.
After reading John, I read First, Second, Third John and Revelation.
Try it. Start small, but aim to be consistent each day. Choose a specific time each day to prayerfully read the Bible. You might set a first goal of reading through the whole New Testament in a year. If you read one chapter a day, five days a week, you will read the New Testament through in a year! Five chapters a week is a managable goal! Remeber, God desires to speak to you and to meet with you. God's Word endures forever!
Blessings to you!