Saturday, August 29, 2020

Two by One

Missionaries distributing food in COVID-19 pandemic

I dreamed that my husband Richard and I are seated at the round dining table in the kitchen of a small house we rent out in a rural area. He starts to make breakfast and sets out a loaf of bread and a box of cereal. But then he is interrupted by a phone call from Bill, the next door neighbor.

Richard says he has to leave because he wants to share the Gospel with Bill, and he thinks this would be a good time as Bill said he had some questions about the Bible. I offer to go with him, but Richard says that I should stay at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. After Richard leaves I brew some tea and set it on the table, awaiting his return.

When I awaken, it is with a sense of longing and sadness that I was not able to be directly involved in this ministry opportunity, even though it was in a dream, and that I was instead left alone at home. It reminded me that Jesus sent out His disciples two by two to witness and spread the Good News of the Gospel (Mark 6:7).

In normal circumstances, that tradition has continued to the present day, and with good reason. Two or three witnesses are required to establish the truth of a matter (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15, Matthew 18:16, 2 Corinthians 13:1) and Jesus said that when two or more are gathered in His Name, He is in the midst of them (Matthew 18:20).

Two can support one another (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) in their unified purpose of leading others to the Lord, of telling them how they can receive the gift of eternal life (John 3:16) by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6).

When I took part in weekly visitation at our former church, home visits were assigned to a married couple, or to two women visiting a single woman or family, or two men visiting a single man or family. This was not only for propriety, abstaining from even the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22), but to make those being visited feel more comfortable.

Usually one visitation partner would take the active role, leading the conversation, answering any questions, and sharing the Gospel as the Holy Spirit opened the door (John 14:16-17; 16:13). Meanwhile, the other partner would sometimes contribute to the flow of conversation as the Lord led (1 Corinthians 2:13; Ephesians 4:15), but often would just pray silently for the Spirit to soften the heart of the unsaved or backslidden person to move closer to the will of Jesus Christ for their life.

But that was in “normal” circumstances, in the pre-COVID-19 era that seems like ages ago, even though it has only been several months. Now, many such ministries have been stifled by the need for social distancing to avoid transmitting the virus, and home visits have become rare or nonexistent. The Gideons are no longer able to distribute Scriptures in person, and many missionaries have encountered restrictions on travel and in-person gatherings that have severely limited their ministries.

In the dream, my longing and sadness over having to stay at home I believe reflect the feelings I have over currently lacking in-person opportunities for ministry, such our dance ministry, teaching a ladies’ Bible study class, and singing in church. But one opportunity that still remains is that of the “silent partner” – the member of the visitation team who prays while the other witnesses.

We may not be able to go to the mission field ourselves, but we can still pray for those who go, and we can give out of our abundance (2 Corinthians 8:14), or even out of our want (Mark 12:44), to support missionaries, pastors, and fellow saints who all have a role in sharing the Gospel. We may not be able to go out two by two, but rather two by one, as each of us in isolation can still do our part to support the two (or more) that go.

Praying for fruit from these missions, and for our fellow-laborers in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:9), is no less important than actually doing the legwork, and I believe will also be rewarded when we see Christ face-to-face (1 Corinthians 13:12).

As I think about the other symbolism of the dream, I consider the bread and cereal my husband set on the breakfast table. Breakfast is a particularly important and enjoyable meal, because it follows an overnight fast. In many ways, the period of lockdown and isolation because of the pandemic has been an emotional and spiritual fast, as many of us are at least temporarily deprived of our usual activities and social interactions.

But periods of rest and spiritual renewal are often prescribed in the Bible, and often precede times of great revival, as in the case of the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 17). As we are still (Psalm 46:10) and wait upon the Lord (Psalm 37:9; 123:2, Isaiah 8:17; 40:31), we can trust that He is doing great things, and that He is preparing us for greater opportunities to serve Him, once all the elements are in place.

Meanwhile, we must pray for wisdom and His strength to empower us to do whatever we can in whatever setting He places us, for we are pilgrims in a foreign country (Hebrews 11:13), longing for our true home in Heaven. It seems fitting that the dream took place in a humble, rural rental home.

In the dream, the table reminded me of the communion table, which should also be preceded by self-examination and fasting (1 Corinthians 11:20-34). The bread, symbolizing Christ as the Bread of Life, had been set out by my husband, the spiritual head of the household. The cereal, which is grain broken in small pieces, I believe symbolizes the breaking of bread in the communion sacrament (1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:24), and ultimately the body of Christ, broken for us (Matthew 26:26).

But the meal was put on hold while my husband went out to share the Gospel. In the interim, I brewed tea, perhaps symbolizing the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives when He infuses us with the Living Water (John 7:38; Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13). The tea plant must be crushed and heated before it can produce tea.

Jesus Christ was bruised and suffered to pay for our sins (Isaiah 53:5), and Gethsemane, the place He prayed for us before His crucifixion (Matthew 26:36-46), means “olive press.” Just as an olive is crushed before it can yield its precious oil, so did Christ endure agony, shedding every drop of His precious blood (Matthew 26:28), so that all who trust Him could be anointed with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:22), often symbolized as oil in Scripture (1 Samuel 16:13; Isaiah 61:3).

Because I brewed the tea while awaiting my husband’s return, the symbolic elements of communion were ready, but the sacrament itself could not yet take place in his absence. It reminded me that the church, or bride of Christ (Revelation 21:2), is waiting for the Bridegroom’s return (Matthew 9:15) at the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), to meet with us in the sky and to celebrate our eternal union at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb! (Revelation 19:9).

Like the ten wise virgins awaiting the Bridegroom, may we use the time wisely, keeping our lamps filled with the oil of the Spirit (Matthew 25:1-13), serving Christ in whatever ways He appoints to us, until His imminent return! 

© 2020 Laurie Collett


Saturday, August 22, 2020

Prayers for our Children: Triplets of Trust


As many children return to school in these challenging times, let us be vigilant to pray for their health, protection, and safety. It reminded me of overall principles of praying for our children, as summarized in this post from the archives.
Advice in God’s Word about parenting occurs in patterns of three, reflecting not only His Triune nature but the family trio consisting of mother, father, and child. Scripture tells us to love, discipline, and teach our children about His Word, His nature, and our faith.

Just as Jesus prayed for every child of God, we should pray for our children to be kept in the Name of God, to be kept from evil, and to be sanctified through His truth (John 17:11,15,17). If we follow this and other Biblical wisdom about parenting, we can anticipate many blessings.

We see many examples in Scripture of fathers praying for their children. Abraham prayed that God would not abandon Ishmael even though he was conceived in opposition to God’s will (Genesis 17:18). In answer to that prayer, God promised to bless Ishmael, to make him the father of twelve princes, and to make him a great nation (v. 20).

Even better, God promised to bless Abraham’s wife Sarah, to give Abraham a son by her, and to make her a mother of nations (v. 16). These were conditional promises, so to show his honoring the covenant with God, Abraham obeyed by circumcising himself, Ishmael, and every male in his household (v. 23-27)

King David prayed that God would spare the life of his first child (2 Samuel 12:16), who was deathly ill and who had been born from David’s sins of lust for Bathsheba, wife of Uriah; adultery with Bathsheba; and murder of Uriah (2 Samuel 11:2-17). He begged God in prayer so intense that he fasted, went in (locked himself in his prayer closet; Matthew 6:6), and prayed all night prostrate upon the earth (2 Samuel 12:16). Paradoxically, when the child died, David cleansed himself, worshipped God, and ate. His cleansing consisted of washing, anointing himself, and changing his clothing (2 Samuel 12:20).

Although God had not answered David’s prayer as he had hoped, David resigned himself to God’s will, saying, “Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:23).This is an excellent illustration of God knowing what we need far better than we do (Matthew 6:8), so that we can have faith that He will answer the prayer in the best possible way (Romans 8:28).

God allowed David the supernatural understanding that the child was in Heaven where he would one day be reunited with him, for all who turn from their sins and place their faith in God alone are born again  to everlasting life (John 3:3-8, 16).

God dealt with David’s sin by chastising him through the death of his son, yet He responded to David’s prayer by giving him three blessings: faith in eternal life in which he would be united with his son, restored marital relations with Bathsheba, and the birth of a second son, Solomon (2 Samuel 12:24).

David had been a man of war, which prevented him from being the one to complete God’s temple. However, his son Solomon would be suited for this task because God promised him rest from all his enemies and peace and quietness for Israel throughout his lifetime. David prayed for his son Solomon to be a wise ruler over Israel, to serve God, and to build His temple in accordance with God’s will, keeping His commandments, testimonies, and statutes (1 Chronicles 22:8,9,12; 29:19).

But as a good father should, David put his money where his mouth was. In addition to prayer, he supported Solomon’s building of the temple by giving him an hundred thousand talents of gold, and a thousand thousand talents of silver; and of brass and iron without weight, He also gave him an abundant supply of timber, stone and skilled workmen for the project (v. 14, 15).

King David supported God’s will for Solomon’s life from his abundant riches. But even if we have only meager financial resources, our children will appreciate, remember and be blessed by our sacrificing to help pay for their education, development of their talents, missions trips, or other opportunities in accordance with God’s specific plan for their lives.

The Bible tells us God’s general will for every child, which is to be saved (2 Peter 3:9) by trusting in Christ's death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven; to love God and love one another (Matthew 22:36-40); to keep His commandments (John 14:15), to pray (1 Thessalonians 5:17), to study and share His Word (2 Timothy 4:2), to witness (Matthew 28:19-20), to be faithful to church (Hebrews 10:25), to tithe (Malachi 3:8-10), etc.

We also need to pray that God’s specific will be fulfilled in our child’s life, calling on His promise to think of them with thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give us His desired outcome. If we call on Him, we will pray to Him, and He will listen to us. When we search for Him with all our heart, we shall seek Him and find Him (Jeremiah 29:11-13). It’s never too early to start praying or God’s will for our children’s higher education, career, and even for their future spouse.

As we pray for our children, we can have faith that God knows, protects and loves them even more than we do, understanding their every thought, word and deed. He knows where they have been and where they will go and guides them with His hand where they are. He knew them before they were even conceived, designed their unique being, and guided their development during gestation. He created every child to be marvelous, fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:1-16).

May we pray earnestly for our children as Jesus prayed for us!  May they grow in God’s grace as Jesus did, physically, mentally and spiritually, increasing in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52),

© 2014 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives
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