“All went to be taxed…”
How many times I have read this with sober concern, but today I smiled at the practical interpretation that came to my mind. I have special insight into what makes the holidays special to so many. It is women. They bake, they cook, they shop, they sew, they clean. They work hard on the dramas and the music. They write notes and cards to distant relatives and friends. They pack baskets of food and gifts of goodies to share with those they love. And, of course, this is all in addition to their usual 24-hour-a-day job. How taxing the holidays can be!
Disrupted schedules, stringing lights, standing a tree, extra dress up occasions, extra company and extra expense can make the holiday taxing for men, too.
With all this added tax . . . Don’t miss Christmas!
The pots and pans will soon be empty. The wrapping paper will be crumpled and cast aside. Decorations will be packed away for another year. Friends and relatives will all go home. Bills will eventually be paid. Holidays come and go. Christmas is eternal.
Christmas is the greatest gift ever given. For the stress of the season to dull our joy for this gift would be much like a child who prefers to play with the wrapping paper and ribbon, ignoring the gift it brought.
At the first Christmas season those who were sensitive to the event worshiped and were blessed. Mary’s soul magnified the Lord. The shepherds returned glorifying and praising God. Wise men fell down and worshiped Him. Old Simeon held the infant Jesus and worshiped God. Anna, the wise widow, gave thanks unto the Lord.
Too busy with the seasonal stress to be sensitive, the innkeeper missed the opportunity to be among the first worshiper. Could Herod have been the fourth king if he had not been so troubled and too busy with his own plans and affairs? Don’t miss the marvel of Christmas in its profound simplicity.
Relieve the strain of the holidays. Sing with joy at any moment. Look at the stars and pause to wonder. Snuggle a baby in your arms and give thanks. Comfort a stranger. Give a gift of expressed appreciation. Surprise someone with words of affirmation. Capture again a child-like heart.
It’s Christmas! Emmanuel - God with us.
That’s what really matters.
Published in categories: Thetus Tenney
Sitting in the little prayer chapel near my house, slowly I surveyed the furnishings. Among them were the altars, a few cushions, some chairs, a Bible and a little leather bound book of God’s promises. All of them had been carefully put there to make this a place of welcoming comfort.
On this day, however, comfort eluded me. My spirit felt overwhelmed; my heart was heavy and my mind was clouded. My day was filled with frustrations and plagued by problems. Sickness swirled around me. There was friction between me and the people who mattered to me. Even my hand felt heavy with the cluster of urgent requests that had brought me to this place of prayer.
What was I to do? Discipline and duty had brought me here, but how was I to rise above the despair and desperation I felt? Faith seemed far-fetched in that moment. The conflict of my mind and heart told me that fretting and faith did not flow well together.
The story of Hannah’s plight helped me in my quandary. When her adversary “provoked her sore for to make her fret”…”in bitterness of soul she prayed unto the Lord and wept sore” (See I Samuel 1). She poured out her sorrowful spirit and the abundance of complaints and grief before God, weeping the words, “Look on my affliction!” All the daily annoyance, the grief of family worries, and the torments of life seemed to fuel the thrust of her prayer. Her voice was not heard–only her sorrow, grief and pain spoke for her. Where was faith in this sad situation?
It is not spoken. Hannah’s faith is evident only in her willful decision, what she did and where she went when fretting besieged her faith. Can I fret and have faith, too?
The frantic father of the demonized boy cried to Jesus with tears, “I do believe; help thou mine unbelief” (See Mark 9:14-29). Belief and unbelief, faith and fear, praying and fretting all rolled together–such a mess, but so human.
Again, on that day in the prayer chapel, the Word brought life to me, separating my troubled thoughts from the good intent of my heart. Reflecting on Hannah’s fretting and the father’s fear gave me a fresh understanding of faith. Hope for help was there, and that hope took all three of us to the right place–to Him who can be touched with the feelings of our weakness.
There are times when we do not know how to pray as we ought, but our groanings are understood by the Spirit (Romans 8:26). In these troublesome and worrisome times, fear and fretting may weaken my faith, but it does not necessarily negate it. The strength of my faith is never the object, it is only the means by which I reach Him. He is the object of my faith, and He is able!
David’s prayer in Psalm 56 expresses it so well. In verse 3, he said, “what time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” In verse 11, he said, “In God have I put my trust, I will not be afraid…” When my fears seem to overwhelm my faith, I still trust in God’s faithfulness. Then my fears are quieted and faith moves me on. The important thing is not my paralyzing fear nor my powerful faith, but I know in whom I have believed and He is able; He is faithful (II Timothy 1:12).
When fear and faith collide, trust holds me secure!
Published in categories: Thetus Tenney
Why should we pray? Does God need help? Is He not able to do anything He desires? Is He not self-sufficient?
Careful reading of Ezekiel 22:30-31 can help answer these questions.
“And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD.” Ezekiel 22:30-31
It is very apparent from this reading that God desired to avoid exercising just and deserved judgment. He actually sought for someone to ask, to intercede, that judgment be diverted. Finding no one, God, bound by His own justice, meted out deserved judgment. If no one intercedes, God must exercise judgment when He does not want to. Why is this? His justice demands judgment. His love seeks an intercessor to intervene.
God does nothing in the realm of human redemption outside of the plan of prayer and intercession. This is underscored by many Biblical references to prayer and multiple entreaties, urgings and invitations for us to pray. A translation of Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask, I ask you to ask—seek, I entreat you to seek, knock, I urge you to knock.” The importance of prayer is made evident as there are 667 references to prayer found in the Bible. God invites us, urges us, and commands us to pray.
Furthermore, the importance of prayer is underscored by God’s binding Himself to unequivocally answer. “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14). “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7). “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:23-24). “…ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4:2b).
In light of this, the entire responsibility for prayerlessness or ineffective prayer must rest on us. His promises to answer are always circumscribed by His will, but any truly yielded child of God would never will anything outside of God’s will. So, there is no “small print” on God’s part in the plan of prayer.
The plan of prayer is God inviting man into partnership with Him to implement His word and will in the affairs of men. Man does have a will. God tells us that whatever we bind or loose on earth, the same will be done in heaven (see Matthew 16:19). In Luke 10:19, we are told that He has given us power (authority) over things on earth. We are the “deputies” with full authority.
The scheme of prayer also encompasses God’s plan to fulfill His purpose for a bride that will rule and reign with Him. Prayer becomes the training arena. It is the apprenticeship for the eternal position of ruling and reigning. We practice enforcing the will of God on earth as it is in heaven. We bind, loose, agree on earth and reign in life! God will not act without our exercising our will in prayer to intercede for His will to be done. He will not sabotage His training program to bring us into full stature, into our inheritance of the ruling, eternal partnership with Him. His part is complete and He gives us the opportunity, through prayer, to enter into this partnership as joint heirs with God.
John Wesley said, “God will do nothing but in answer to prayer.” S. D. Gordon said, “The greatest thing anyone can do for God and for man is to pray” and “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.”
Prayer is—should be—the main business of the church.
Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance; it is entering into partnership, “joint heirs,” with God. What He has willed in the heavens can be done on the earth. His word that is settled in heaven completes its circuit on earth as we declare in prayer, with faith believing, that His word is true.
God had declared His intentions, His will in Jeremiah 25, “…Because ye have not heard my words…land shall be a desolation…shall serve the King of Babylon seventy years. I will recompense them according to their deeds….” Years later, Daniel reads the prophecy of Jeremiah and realizes the time for deliverance from Babylon is near and sets himself to seek the Lord by prayer and fasting for the fulfillment of the prophecy. The prophetic promise had to be prayed into fulfillment. God declared His will from His eternal perspective. Man prayed it into earthly reality!
In Exodus 25, after the incident of the children of Israel worshiping the golden calf, God’s intentions were to consume them in the fury of His anger. Moses interceded on the basis of the covenant promise made to Abraham and God spared the people.
God’s law and justice dictate judgment and consequences. God’s love and mercy wait patiently for an intercessor to plead the case. God’s word is settled in heaven. Our prayers bring them to reality in the earth. As we pray, “Thy Kingdom come,” our prayers become the discipline training of our future ruling and reigning with Him.
Why pray? God waits for our will to bring His will to earth.
Published in categories: Thetus Tenney
My salvation, my whole life as I have known it, probably depended on a simple saint who was faithfully committed to prayer meeting.
It was in the early ’30′s when walking was more common than driving. Port Arthur, Texas was the place. A young couple from central Texas had moved there to work in the oil refinery. They called a small apartment home for themselves and their three young children.
Church attendance was not on their weekly agenda. In fact, it was not on their agenda at all. But a faithful prayer warrior changed that.
Every morning a little before nine o’clock, a little lady passed in front of their little apartment with her Bible under her arm. To the young mother inside the little apartment it soon became a part of her morning routine to watch for the little lady who always passed her door a little before nine o’clock.
Where is she going every day? Why does she always have a Bible under her arm? Who is she? What is this about?
Then one morning, some would say as fate would have it, she stopped and knocked on the door. (From my vantage point, I know it wasn’t fate, but unspoken faith from a fertile heart.) When the young mother stood face to face with the lady from the sidewalk, she received an invitation to an old-fashioned tent revival. Few words were spoken, but the simple invitation seemed to speak to the young mother all day from its resting place on the dresser. By five-thirty in the evening the children were bathed and dressed for going out and supper was on the table. A little bewildered, the hardworking young man looked at his lovely dressed-up wife, wondering.
“We are going to church tonight,” she explained.
Willingly, he agreed.
It was a strange experience–the tent, the people, the praying, the preaching. But at the close of the service the young father said to his wife, “You go and pray. I’ll stay with the children.”
Kneeling at an altar, she was totally transformed by the baptism of the Holy Ghost!
Among those gathering around was the little lady from the sidewalk with the Bible under her arm.
“Where do you go every morning?”
“We have nine o’clock prayer meeting every day.”
“Could we come?” asked the young couple.
“Well, we normally don’t have prayer meeting on Saturday morning,” the Pastor interjected, “but we will if you want to come.”
Saturday morning, nine o’clock prayer meeting found the young couple joining the faithful saints. Prayer was made. Baptism was explained. Both agreed to baptism in the name of Jesus Christ. Now, it was the young man’s turn for transformation as he broke the waters of baptism, speaking in tongues, filled with the Holy Ghost.
The young couple were my mother and father, E. W. and Johnnie Ruth Caughron. These events transpired before my birth. Consequently, I was born into a Sprit-filled home. My parents’ dedicated ministry carried them in soul-winning revivals and building of churches from Texas to Alaska. Dozens and dozens of preachers were called and hundreds and hundreds of saints were impacted by their ministry.
What if the little lady on the sidewalk with the Bible under her arm had not been faithful to prayer meeting? I shudder at the thought–I probably wouldn’t be writing this now.
Published in categories: Thetus Tenney
As Nation rises against nation, kingdom against kingdom, and the ultimate battle between good and evil intensifies, there is an urgency to put on the whole armor of God and joint the battle action of “…praying always…” (Ephesians 6:11-18).
Attacks of the enemy may be fierce with fiery darts and the warriors may grow weary in the good fight of faith, but great victories are coming for those who follow Him who wears the Victor’s Crown! The King of Kings and Lord of Lords leads a victorious army (Revelation 19:11-16)!
God’s parade of heroes did not stop with the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. Abraham, Sara, Rahab, and Gideon will be joined by some of us who will, through faith, subdue kingdoms, work righteousness, obtain promises, quench violence, escape destruction, become strong, fight valiantly, and turn to fight the armies of the enemy (Hebrews 11).
One of the great heroes of biblical battles was General Gideon (Judges 6 and 7). The victory God gave to him is one of the most astounding feats of war ever recorded. He came from hiding, full of fear and questions, but he because a warrior full of faith with authority. Read his story in Judges 6 and believe the following:
- There is power in one person committed to God’s cause. “Go…thou shalt save Israel…have not I sent thee…thou shalt smite as one man…”
- Angels become in involved in human lives. “the angel of the Lord appeared to him…”
- God has confidence in us in spite of our lack of confidence. “I am the least in my Father’s house…The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor…”
- God is patient in our preparation and mobilization. “…shew me a sign…that thou talkest with me…(and the angel said) I will tarry until thou come again…”
- Miraculous confirmation can follow commitment. “…there arose up fire out of the rock and consumed the flesh…”
- Commitment is expressed in action. “…Gideon built an altar…”
The Lord instructed Gideon to throw down the altar of Baal in his family and to build an altar to the Lord where it stood. It is interesting to observe that Gideon built the altar where he pulled down the stronghold.
Gideon enlisted corporate effort. In fear, but by faith he took ten others with him. If two of you agree…one shall chase a thousand; two shall chase ten thousand. Small prayer groups agreeing together are a mighty force for personal victories that are multiplied into spreading, far-reaching effect.
And remember – God is faithful! The Lord had said Gideon would smite as one man and verse 31 confirms that “…one hath cast down his (Baal’s) altar.”
Remember when Gideon’s army, though separated into smaller groups, surrounded their common enemy and acted with the force of unity, a great victory occurred all around the enemy’s camp.
“And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran…(Judges 7:21)…”for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (II Chronicles 20:15).
Published in categories: Thetus Tenney