Loud shrieks

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

For unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks were coming out of many who were possessed, and many paralyzed and lame people were healed. So there was great joy in that city. Acts 8.7-8

After the death of Stephen in Acts 7.54-60, a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem. All, except the apostles, were forced to leave Jerusalem and were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. Everywhere they went, they shared the good news of the word.

Philip had gone to the main city in Samaria. He was preaching about the Christ. The crowds were paying attention to him with one mind. They could see the miraculous things that he was doing and there was great joy in the city.

Simon, a magician, also believed in Philip’s message and was baptized. He was amazed at the miracles that were happening. When he realized that the power of the Holy Spirit was passed on by the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money to receive this power to pass on the Holy Spirit to others. He was sharply rebuked by Peter who told him to repent of his sin for his heart was not right with God.

The ability of Philip and others to heal the paralyzed and lame, as well as to be able to free a person of an unclean spirit brought great joy to those in the city. The miraculous gifts confirmed the words that Philip was preaching!

#risingjoy #Acts #miracles

The world would rejoice

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

I tell you the solemn truth, you will weep and wail, but the world will rejoice; you will be sad, but your sadness will turn into joy. When a woman gives birth, she has distress because her time has come, but when her child is born, she no longer remembers the suffering because of her joy that a human being has been born into the world. John 16.20-21

Jesus was preparing his disciples for events that would soon take place. His death and resurrection were just hours away. The disciples did not understand what he was trying to say. He told them that they would be sad. They would weep and wail. However, the world would rejoice at his death.

Jesus compared the coming days to the birth of a child. The stress that a woman feels during childbirth is both mental and physical. There is the mental stress of the uncertainty of when it will happen and how it will be. Then, there is the actual physical suffering that occurs during the actual birth. However, once the baby is born and she holds the baby in her arms, her joy overcomes her memories of the suffering that she had just been through during the birth process.

Jesus would die. The disciples would see this as the end to their dreams and hopes for the future. But, on the third day, he would rise from the dead and their joy over this event would eclipse all of the sorrow they had felt.

We do not always understand about the death of Jesus, why he had to die. Nor do we understand the significance of his resurrection on the third day. Yet, when we do understand, it brings a joy that surpasses all the sadness and turmoil that accompanies unbelief. Do you understand? Do you have the joy?

#risingjoy #John #joy

What we must do

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete. John 15.10-11

Why is it so hard to be obedient? There are many passages in the Bible that talk about life and death, both in the New Testament and the Old Testament.

In the Old Testament, we read of the Israelites failure to obey time and time again. It just seems like they cannot get it right. Even though they know that life is dependent on obedience, they fall time and time again into idolatry among other sins.

In the New Testament, we read in Acts 5 about Ananias and Sapphira. In 1 Corinthians, Paul had to correct one problem after another of sinful actions or attitudes in the congregation in Corinth. Humans have a hard time being obedient!

To be obedient, we must submit. Submission is considered weakness by those who do not know any better, but it is the most difficult thing to do on a consistent basis. It is so easy to stand up and say that you have had enough, that you are doing what you want to do just this once. There is the account of the example of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Matthew 26.36-46. His will was secondary to the will of God, the Father. Hebrews 5.8 says that Jesus learned obedience through the things he suffered.

Our ego, our selfishness, does not want to let go of the false perception that we are in control. We are very good at deceiving ourselves and less apt at dying to ourselves, Matthew 16.24-27.

Yet, if we want our joy to be complete, that is what we must do. Submit. Be obedient. For if we are not obeying God, there is only one other alternative. The devil is like a roaring lion seeking to devour, 1 Peter 5.8. To whom do you submit?

#risingjoy #John #obedience

More important

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

… You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but rather, ‘I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands by and listens for him, rejoices greatly when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. This then is my joy, and it is complete. He must become more important while I become less important.” John 3.28-30

I am sure that we all have either been to a wedding or perhaps, participated in a wedding. They are such happy occasions most of the time. I enjoy watching the groom’s face when he sees his bride for the first time. It brings joy to the heart to see the groom with his bride.

John, who had been conceived by a miracle, Luke 1.13-18, had a purpose from birth. He was to make the people of the Lord ready to receive Jesus when he came.

Jesus and John were in the same general area in Judean territory, both teaching and baptizing. A dispute came up between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew. The disciples went to John, but they did not bring up the dispute. It appeared they were jealous on the part of John for everyone was flocking to Jesus! It would appear that John had done his job well.

Instead of reacting with jealousy, John reminded his disciples what he had already told them. He was not the Christ. He was the friend of the bridegroom that rejoiced greatly when he heard the bridegroom’s voice. His joy was complete. John knew that his role was to lead others to Jesus, not to compete with him for their attention.

It is also our role to lead others to Jesus. Or do we try to compete with Jesus for their attention? He must become more important while I become less important.

#risingjoy #John #Jesus

Go out and search

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

… Returning home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, telling them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost.’ I tell you, in the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to repent. … Luke 15.6-7

Jesus taught many times using a parable. According to Merriam-Webster, a parable is a usually short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle.

The Pharisees and experts in the law were complaining. They did not like the fact that Jesus was eating with the tax collectors and sinners that were coming to hear his teaching.

Jesus told the parable of the lost sheep. There were ninety-nine sheep safe in the open pasture, but one sheep was lost. The owner went to look for the sheep that was lost. He found it and brought it home. He called all his friends and neighbors to tell them the good news. He had found his lost sheep!

The significance of the parable is the joy that God has to see one sinner repent. There is much rejoicing in heaven over just one! Will we go out and search for the one who needs to repent?

#risingjoy #Luke #joy

A cause for feeling blessed

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you and insult you and reject you as evil on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and jump for joy, because your reward is great in heaven. For their ancestors did the same things to the prophets.(…) Luke 6.22-23

Being a Christian is not always easy. Suffering is not the popular choice. Insult and rejection are things that we try to avoid as much as possible. For someone to call us evil is offensive. Yet, when these things happen because we are following Jesus, it is cause for feeling blessed and rejoicing.

The apostles, in Acts 5.12-42, were called before the Sanhedrin, the high council of the Israelites. The high priest and the Sadducees, because of jealousy, had put the apostles in a public jail after they had been teaching and healing people. An angel released them during the night. He told them to go teach in the temple courts. They obey. Once again they find themselves before the Sanhedrin. The apostles were told not to teach in the name of Jesus. After barely escaping execution and being beaten, they left the council. They did not leave the council with their heads hanging down and feeling beaten. They left rejoicing because they had been worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of Jesus. Every day they continued to teach and to proclaim the good news of Jesus!

When you are mocked for your faith, how do you react? Do you stand firm or do you begin to cower and wither? May we stand firm before persecution and continue to proclaim Jesus Christ!

#risingjoy #Luke #suffering

Hugh’s News & Views (. . . Spiritual Sword)

THE JULY 2020 ISSUE OF THE SPIRITUAL SWORD

The July 2020 issue of The Spiritual Sword is a sterling edition of the quarterly publication having as its theme, “A Handy Guide To Pioneer Preachers.” Significantly, this issue completes a full fifty-one years that The Spiritual Sword has been in publication, all under the oversight of the elders of the Getwell Church of Christ in Memphis, TN. It also marks thirty-one years that Alan Highers has been at the editorial helm of this outstanding journal. Continue reading

#hughfulford

Verify the facts

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were absolutely terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! Listen carefully, for I proclaim to you good news that brings great joy to all the people: Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord.(…) Luke 2.9-11

In the Bible, the reaction to the appearance of an angel was great fear. Here the reaction of the shepherds is no different. They were living out in the field, keeping guard over their flock at night. Between the sudden appearance of the angel and the light from the glory of the Lord shining around, they were absolutely terrified.

The angel had a message to deliver to them. It was good news! It would bring great joy to everyone. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. They later decide to go check it out for themselves. They head to Bethlehem and find Jesus in the manger.

After sharing what they had seen and heard, they returned to the field glorifying and praising God. Everything they had been told was true.

Today, Christians are God’s messengers. The subject has not changed. We still announce Jesus to the world. We find what we need to know written in the Bible. Do you encourage others to verify the facts for themselves? Everything written in the Bible is true; therefore, we also can glorify and praise God.

#risingjoy #Luke #facts

Let God use you

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

(…)And who am I that the mother of my Lord should come and visit me? For the instant the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Luke 1.43-45

This passage is about two women. Both find themselves in situations that defy the very nature of how things should be. God’s hand was in the picture.

Elizabeth was pregnant. She was old and considered to be barren. But, God had a different plan for her. He blessed her with a child, John. He was a relative of Jesus. He would become the fore runner of Jesus preparing the way for the one who would come after him.

Mary was pregnant. She was a virgin who was pregnant with the son of God. As soon as possible, she went to visit Elizabeth. The text does not say why explicitly. Perhaps due to Elizabeth’s situation, Mary felt that she would receive understanding and support. After all, both women were in situations that were out of the normal. They were miraculous!

The baby, John, leaped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary entered the house. She blessed Mary for her belief that what the angel had announced to her would actually happen.

Mary often pondered about the things that happened, perhaps not understanding completely who her son was and what his mission was. But she allowed God to use her for his glory. It is a valuable lesson that we all need to apply to ourselves: letting God use us for his glory!

#risingjoy #Luke #handofGod

Exactly what you wanted

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, hidden in a field, that a person found and hid. Then because of joy he went and sold all that he had and bought that field.(…) Matthew 13.44

Have you ever been shopping and come across an item that was exactly what you wanted, perhaps even needed? However, at the time, you did not have the money that you needed to buy it. So you stuck the item at the back of the shelf hoping that it would be there when you returned.

How exciting is it to come upon a treasure! You are working in the field and suddenly you discover something of great value. You look around and hide it once more. You are so glad to have found the treasure that you must purchase the field! What do you do? You sell all that you have to buy the field!

Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to such a treasure. The church is the kingdom here on earth. The church is a treasure that is worth all that we have to possess it. Do you consider the church to be a treasure? Do you have this treasure in your life?

#risingjoy #Matthew #treasure

They shouted joyfully

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

After listening to the king they left, and once again the star they saw when it rose led them until it stopped above the place where the child was. When they saw the star they shouted joyfully. Matthew 2.9-10

The wise men from the East had traveled to see Jesus. They had followed a star and had arrived in Jerusalem asking where the one who was born king of the Jews could be found. It caused a stir. Herod, who was the actual king at the time was alarmed.

Herod sets about learning what he can about the Christ. He calls a meeting with all the chief priests and experts in the law. Where is the Christ to be born? It is of utmost concern to the actual king.

After finding the location through the prophecies, he calls for the wise men. Arranging to meet with them privately, he enlists their help to find the baby. His intentions are not honorable.

Upon leaving Jerusalem, the wise men once again are able to see the star and follow it to Bethlehem where they are directed by the star to the place where Jesus can be found. Their reaction is to shout joyfully.

In the parable of the sower, Jesus talks about four different types of soil where the seed that are sewn may fall, Matthew 13.1-9. There is the person who hears the word about the kingdom and does not understand it. The evil one comes and snatches it away. There is the one who hears the word, immediately receives it, but has no root within and does not endure. There is the one who hears the word, but allows worldly cares and the seductiveness of wealth to choke the word so that it produces nothing. Finally, there is the good soil where the seed is planted. This is the person who hears, understands, and obeys, Matthew 13.18-23.

Have you found Jesus? What was your reaction? We choose the reaction that we will have. Will you be like the wise men and shout joyfully when you find him? Will you be good soil?

#risingjoy #Matthew #reactions

Because I belong to you, O Lord

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

As your words came to me I drank them in, and they filled my heart with joy and happiness because I belong to you, O Lord, the God who rules over all. Jeremiah 15.16

Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. He was sent to the children of Israel to preach repentance when the people followed after false prophets.

In Jeremiah 15, the prophet is complaining about how he is being treated by the people. He asks God to apply justice to his situation and to remember how he has served the Lord faithfully.

However, he also begins to question why he is having to endure what he is going through. The people insult him continually. He questions if God will be there for him when he needs him. At this point, God calls for his repentance to receive restoration.

The verse above paints a picture of thirst and satisfaction at being filled with joy and happiness at hearing the words from God. God rules over all and Jeremiah belongs to him.

We should have the same thirst for God’s words as Jeremiah. We should drink them in through reading the Bible. They still have the ability to fill our hearts with joy and happiness if we belong to him.

#risingjoy #Jeremiah #suffering

God’s instrument today

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

Shout for joy, O sky! Rejoice, O earth! Let the mountains give a joyful shout! For the Lord consoles his people and shows compassion to the oppressed. Isaiah 49.13

Many books in the Bible talk about the oppression of God’s people. Many times their oppression occurred because of their disobedience to God. We read of the Israelites in Egypt and Moses who led them out in Exodus.

We read of the story of Gideon in Judges 6-8. The Israelites had once again disobeyed God. They were overthrown by the Midianites for seven years. God used Gideon to deliver the Israelites.

Revelation was written to encourage Christians who were being persecuted. It affirms the victory that Christ and his faithful disciples will enjoy at the end of time.

The Lord uses people to console and encourage those who are oppressed and discouraged. It is through his people that he shows compassion. The church is his instrument today to bring hope to those who are oppressed by sin that the gospel might set them free!

#risingjoy #Isaiah #compassion

Before finding their way back

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

A cheerful heart brings good healing, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17.22

In this verse, we see the contrast between someone who has a cheerful heart and someone who has a crushed spirit. One is optimistic and happy. The other is unhealthy and lifeless. Yet, it is indicated that both are suffering from an ailment, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual.

Our attitudes are so important in this process called life. Positive attitudes seem to bring, if not healing, an extended life. Negative attitudes take us to a dark place that is full of despair and the road back is often long and painful to walk. Many give up before finding their way back.

One thing that helps is our relationship with God. If we have no relationship with him, when the bad times come, we have no strength outside of our own. Our own strength is not strong enough to get us through the bad times. However, for his children, he has stated that his grace is sufficient to get us through whatever circumstance in which we find ourselves, 2 Corinthians 12.9. Paul writes that he would gladly boast in his weakness so that Christ’s power might reside in him.

Let us all seek the power that comes from a correct relationship with God! A relationship that produces a cheerful heart that brings good healing.

#risingjoy #Proverbs #joy

An appropriate answer

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

A person has joy in giving an appropriate answer, and a word at the right time – how good it is! Proverbs 15.23

Being able to give an appropriate answer is wisdom in action. Courage is needed to give an appropriate answer that is not necessarily what someone wants to hear.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians in 4.29 that a person must not let any unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear. Then in 4.31 he wrote that we must put away every kind of bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, and evil, slanderous talk. Not only what we say but how we say it determines how we will be received.

Peter, the apostle who so often spoke first and then reaped the consequences of his words, also wrote in 1 Peter 3.15 that we need to always be prepared to answer anyone who asks about the hope that we possess. There is something that needs to take place first. We have to let Christ be the Lord of our heart.

The tongue is hard to tame and control. Perhaps that is why James 1.19 tells us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Make sure that your brain is paying attention before you speak.

It is true. A word spoken at the right time can bring healing. How good it is!

#risingjoy #Proverbs #words