CHIHUAHUA, Mexico: Seventy-five Tarahumara believers are finding themselves unwelcome in their own community.
The Tarahumaras number about 10,000, spread out into several communities in the mountains of northern Mexico. Fernando is a church leader and teacher in one area.
"They are suffering persecution from their own people," wrote missionary Raul Salaverria. "Their enemies would like all Christians pushed out of the community."
Complicating Fernando's ministry is the fact that only portions of the Bible have been translated. So a New Tribes missionary plans to move back into the area soon to work on translating God's Word. Fernando is expected to be his primary co-worker.
"Please pray for encouragement of the believers among the Tarahumaras, Fernando and the other leaders of this congregation, and the Bible translation work," Raul wrote (http://www.ntm.org/news/3221). -----------------------------------------------------------------------
When I was in seminary my old professor, Dr. Robert L. Reymond, used to randomly pick out someone and say, "Well, Mike, what new manna did God give you today from His Word?" There was a serious expectation on Dr. Reymond's part that we would have a genuine answer! I once saw a young man "undressed" by Dr. Reymond for not preparing his soul for the day and yet claiming to be called to preach. I made sure that when I went into Dr. Reymond's class, I had found some manna! I tried not to let threats or guilt persuade me, but to consider instead the sweetness of the manna for my mouth.
Well, as I share with you that which I received from the Lord, I am thinking about how it is possible for me to receive God's salvation and still forget God. In fact, I have been reading from Judges and that is the recurring theme.
Joshua 21.43, 44: Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.
The people of God occupied the Promised Land. But because of sin, they couldn't keep it. For over and over again, they forgot God and worshipped the foreign gods. And then they would cry out to God and He would mercifully hear and send a leader to help them. They would be blessed again by God. Then they would fall away again.
In Chapters 8 and 9 of Judges we come to the story of Gideon's son, Abimelech, and his treacherous act of murdering his half brothers in order to secure sole leadership of Shechem, which had been saved from the Mideonites by his father. Here is a part of that story:
Judges 8.33-35 As soon as Gideon died, the people of Israel turned again and whored after the Baals and made Baal-berith their god. And the people of Israel did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hand of all their enemies on every side, and they did not show steadfast love to the family of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in return for all the good that he had done to Israel.
Judges 9.1-5 Now Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother’s relatives and said to them and to the whole clan of his mother’s family, “Say in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you, that all seventy of the sons of Jerubbaal rule over you, or that one rule over you?’ Remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.” And his mother’s relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our brother.” And they gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him. And he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself.
Judges 9.56-57 Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers. And God also made all the evil of the men of Shechem return on their heads, and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.
I am thinking of several things in regard to this passage:
1. How quickly we can turn away from God after having received His blessings. If anyone has ever wondered why so much of the New Testament is written to Christians about staying true to Jesus Christ, just read Judges. Or just visit with any believer who is honest enough to say, "The greatest moment of temptation often comes soon after a great spiritual victory."
2. How quickly we can forget those human instruments of God who were useful to bring about our salvation or our growth in Christ.
Hebrews 13 tells us that we should remember those who care for our souls:
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Recently I attended a board meeting in which I got to see Dr. Kennedy again. As I approached this man who was greatly used by the Lord in my life, I reached out my hand and he said, "What's that? No way! Come here, boy!" And he embraced me. I was deeply moved, but even more so because of my own lack of gratitude. I could have literally bent down to kiss his hand that had guided me to Jesus' grace. Our hearts must be tender towards those who shepherd our souls.
3. I am also thinking about how regrettably treacherous we can deal with each other in the Body of Christ.
Surely no treachery I have ever known in the Church equals the ungodly, murderous act of Abimelech. But I have known treachery among believers. I have sensed its poison rising in my own heart at times. It is a poison that is of the flesh. And it is not pretty. James said in the fourth chapter of that epistle:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?* You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
What a call for me to be united daily with Jesus, that I would see my own sin and Christ's mercy and forgiveness, that I would remember His death on the cross for the cause of my heinous rebellion against Him, and that in knowing His mercy, I would show mercy to others. I do not want to be an Abimelech with my brothers and sisters in Christ. Let it never be so! Let me be broken and lowly and not haughty and high browed with my fellow sinners!
So in Conclusion...
I thank God that all of the promises of God are ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen’ in Jesus. For though old Israel lost her land, and only a remnant remained true to God, once we are saved by Jesus, the new Joshua, we can never lose our portion! For Jesus Himself made the journey, defeated the Enemy, and rose again from the dead. He went to prepare a place for us and that place is secure forever! Our inheritance is as certain as the finished work of Christ on the cross!
So, Beloved as I read Judges 8 and 9 in light of the Gospel, I am concerned that God would make me thankful to Him for my salvation. I pray that He would cause me to love Him more each day for His saving and sustaining graces in my life and that He would make me eager to thank others for their part in my salvation and sanctification. I pray also that I would esteem others higher than myself and that I would work for peace and unity in the Body of Christ.
I thank you for showing us Christ's love. I thank our elders for modeling Christ to me. I thank our deacons who allow me to focus on the Word by taking care of the business of the church. I thank our pastors for showing me grace as I seek to lead. I thank our people for being patient with me. I thank Ben Haden who prayed for me and helped me as I came here following his much blessed pastorate. I thank Pastor Bob and Dr. Kennedy and Dr. Reymond and so many others who contributed to my ministry and my Christian life. I thank my wife for her journey with me through sin and sickness and sorrow and long days and late nights of ministry. I thank my son for sometimes sharing his daddy with others, for the cause of the Kingdom of God. I thank Aunt Eva for her prayers for my soul.
Oh, let me be a man who remembers God and remembers His people! Let me excel in private thanksgivings! Let me excel in public acknowledgment of others!
These are the things I am thinking about today. Maybe God will use something here to speak to you.
God bless you my dear saints and may God work in us that which is well pleasing in His sight. Always remember the cross. Always stay broken at the foot of the cross, and this will work sweetness in your heart and in our congregation, to God's glory.