Thursday
May192016

Answered!

Explore the Bible
June 5, 2016

Lee McGlone
Arkadelphia

1 Samuel 1:10-18, 26-28

Hannah’s story is amazingly similar to other biblical stories about barren women who gave birth late in life. We think of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Samson’s mother (unnamed), and Elizabeth in the New Testament. As her story begins, we feel the pulsating anguish of Hannah’s empty arms. As it ends, we rejoice that the deepest desire of her heart was fulfilled and that her life became a testimony of overwhelming faithfulness.  

Her story is an example of our human dilemma. Struggles, often devastating ones, truly come to us, often with no logical reason. Inability to have children, having children and then seeing them struggle with birth defects, or losing children to death are some of our struggles! The anguish is beyond description. We do suffer, and the hurt is at times almost unbearable. We admire Hannah for her honest grieving. She was greatly distressed, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.  

Hannah was seeking an answer, and she went to the right place. Her perseverance displayed her faith.  She trusted God to give her an answer.  Her prayer was fervent, effectual and mystical – so much so that Eli the prophet thought her to be drunk. She defended herself against Eli’s false accusation, assuring him that she was not a worthless woman and that her prayer was real. “Eli answered. ‘Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him” (1 Sam. 1:17, NIV). But the greater joy is that not only did Eli hear deeply Hannah’s pleas but also God heard and answered. In “due time,” a son was born and was named Samuel (“God has heard”).  After the boy was weaned, Hannah obediently and faithfully made her way to Eli and presented Samuel to God just as she had promised.

Hannah’s song that begins chapter two expressed her heart: “My heart rejoices in the Lord … for I delight in your deliverance” (1 Sam. 2:1, NIV). One can hardly deny the similarity to Mary’s Magnificat. Perhaps the greatest honor we can give to God is to live joyfully, knowing at all times that we are never separated from the love of God.

Thursday
May192016

Transformed in my worship

Bible Studies for Life
June 5, 2016

Melissa Kirk
Pocahontas

Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18

My mother loves the McIntosh variety apple. She says it’s full of flavor, easy to digest, and bakes well. When they’re in season, she loads up. I can be sure she will send some home with me because she knows I agree that they are delicious.

Like all apples, what makes it good is everything under its skin. The fruit thrives with a strong core, seed and stem. Properly grown and harvested, it’s pleasing to the taste buds. In similar fashion, everything good about us is created by God, wholly designed to worship Him.

God gives us instructions, intended to mature and transform us into a sampling of His perfect flavor to those we come in contact with. A few disciplines He gives us to practice are found in Matthew. Matthew 6:3 (NIV), begins, “But when you give ...” Matthew 6:6 (NIV), begins, “But when you pray …” Matthew 6:17 (NIV), begins, “But when you fast…” He doesn’t say, “if you.” He expects us to thrive in these areas.

Imagine a lovely bowl filled with chunks of Gala apples tossed in a crisp Waldorf salad or a hot Granny apple pie waiting to be sliced or rich caramel-coated Jonathan apples pierced with a stick and rolled in crushed peanuts lining the counter or a simmering pan of blended Baldwin and Winesap apples. Combined together, the fruits chosen and harvested for their appealing flavors create a lavish banquet with a mouthwatering aroma.

What’s under our skin? Do we give, pray and fast? Do we faithfully serve God, seeking only His favor? If so, our combined results are a pleasing fragrance to Him, a worship he finds acceptable.

Our Creator watches over us as the apple of His eye. He walks with us, preserves our lives for the number of days He determines right and prepares an everlasting home for us. He is worthy of our obedient acts of worship.

I want my life to point others to God’s invitation to feast at the banquet table. I pray you desire the same.

Thursday
May192016

Extraordinary

Explore the Bible
May 29, 2016

Howard Kisor
Russellville

Acts 12:7-12, 16-19

Jail is not a comfortable place to find yourself. I have been behind those bars several times in my role as a chaplain for police and sheriff’s departments. I have visited inmates convicted of both petty and capital crimes. When those iron gates close behind you, there is always a feeling of being trapped.  

Peter was arrested because of his faith in Jesus and was about to pay the ultimate price for his religious convictions.  Herod had made it his personal campaign to rid his kingdom of these followers of the “Way” in order to gain favor with the Jewish leaders.

The Passover was about to take place, and Peter would be the next sacrifice thrown to the Jews for destruction. But no one expected the extraordinary event that would occur. While sleeping, seemingly peacefully, in his cell, Peter was abruptly awakened by an angel. The law at that time was that if a prisoner escaped from custody the soldiers in charge would suffer the penalty of their prisoner. Although Peter was chained between two soldiers for security, his chains were loosened.

As if in a dream, the angel and Peter walked past two guard posts and out of the jail. Peter awakened from his daze and found himself outside and free.  He immediately went to Mary’s home where the other disciples were holding a prayer meeting for his release. When a young girl heard Peter’s voice at the door, it astonished her and she ran to tell the others. They didn’t believe her and surmised it must be his ghost since he surely was executed by now. Finally, after continued knocking, Peter gained entrance and everyone rejoiced! Peter then departed for a safer place.

This event proves that God can work in mysterious ways to perform His wonders. In light of today’s culture of persecution of the Christian faith around the world, we must take comfort that the Lord will help us in our time of trial. But until our task for God is complete, nothing on this earth will “separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39b, NIV).

Thursday
May192016

Beauty from ashes – Part 3

Bible Studies for Life
May 29, 2016

Mary Kisor
Russellville

Acts 8: 26-35

It is hard to imagine how exciting it is to help with these articles. It is astonishing to think that you would read what I think. These thoughts might be shared by others who go on mission trips. You might ask, “What can I say that others would listen to?”

These same thoughts might have gone through the minds of the apostles. But they had a commission directly from Jesus. Tell what you learned; teach others how to live. Philip was in Samaria, sharing with people near his own home. Those people, distantly related to the Jews, would have heard about Jesus. Many would have seen Jesus personally.

Often we see God “our-sized.” We don’t mean to fall short; we just don’t catch the vision. We plan our church budget based on last year’s income, and we forget to leave room for God to work. Philip wasn’t wrong, just not as big as God wanted. So Jesus sent an angel: “Rise and go” toward Gaza, toward an unconsidered people.

When Philip encountered the Ethiopian man, the man was not a wild, raging heathen. The eunuch was reading the Scriptures. He was already hungry; he was empty, and he knew it. What he needed was for someone to show him Jesus. So, beginning with the prophet Isaiah, Philip shared the good news of Jesus as fulfillment of the prophesy the eunuch was reading.

Our world is full of people who know they are missing something, but they don’t know what. They try to fill the need for God with drugs, money, work, friends. But nothing works. They need for you and me to answer the Spirit’s prompting and go to them and tell the story of Jesus. They know there is light somewhere. The question asked earlier was: “What can I say that others would listen to?” Like the eunuch heard Philip because he expended the effort, people listen because we care enough to go. We have the Light; we just need to share.

Thursday
May052016

Accepting

Explore the Bible
May 22, 2016

Howard Kisor
Russellville

Acts 10:9-15,43-48; Rom. 10:13, NKJV

When I was a child, my grandfather on my mother’s side would treat us to fish every week. He was a commercial fisherman on the Mississippi River near our hometown of Hannibal, Mo. Catfish, drum, carp and other varieties of fish were caught in his hoop nets. We enjoyed eating those “love gifts” from his fishing endeavors. It wasn’t until I was older that I learned that some of those fish were considered “unclean” to the Israelites of the Old Testament. Even to this day, some in the Jewish faith observe that dietary restriction. That restriction makes me glad for this vision that Peter had and that I am a Gentile.

We serve and believe in an accepting God who doesn’t restrict His salvation call to anyone. Romans 10:13, NKJV says, “For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”

Peter’s heart and head had to be reshaped to accept that the Gentile world was to be included in the saving grace of Christ’s gospel. The vision helped pave the way for the visitors he was about to receive. God was setting the stage for worldwide evangelism, and He wanted a smooth transition from the old to the new covenant.

Acting in accordance with the leadership of the Holy Spirit – which every Christian and church should do – Peter responded to the visitor’s request and traveled to the home of Cornelius, where he found a group of Gentile believers who worshipped the God of the Jews.

Peter began to preach the life and message of Christ to these Gentiles, teaching how He had come to save the world from sin by His death on the cross and resurrection from the grave.

If there was any doubt left in Peter’s mind about the saving grace of Christ being available to the entire world, it was quickly erased as the Holy Spirit fell upon these believers just as it had at Pentecost. Praise God that we are accepted in His sight through our faith in Jesus!