“Come Before Winter”

As I drove up that gusty August afternoon, Hal had just finished hanging the squirrel feeder in the backyard and restoring the dilapidated bird feeder.  I asked what he was doing and he said, “Getting ready for winter.”  Honey, it’s a long way from winter.  “Tell that to the squirrels and birds when the snow starts to fly” was his reply.  The squirrels must store up for winter and the birds need a reliable source of food when snow and ice are covering the ground.

This response reminded me of the words written by the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 4:21 “Do thy diligence to come before winter.”  Paul was in a jail cell in Rome ministering to the saints in Caesars’ household when he ask a young disciple named Timothy to bring him three things.  He asked for his cloke, and he asked for his books and his parchments.  Undoubtedly, these things were of great importance to Paul for several reasons.  First, he asked for his cloke, which is preparation for his health as winter approached.  Next, he asked for his books.  Most likely, they were books of scripture, such as the commandments of God, which would help prepare him for holiness.  Last, Paul asked for the parchments.  These may have been words that the Apostle had personally penned about his Lord and Savior.  Could these parchments have been Paul’s way of preparing for his happiness in spite of being in the winter of his life?

I can’t help but wonder what may have happened if Timothy had been too busy to hang a spiritual bird feeder for Paul, even though winter was approaching.  The Bible is silent on the details concerning the outcome in this matter.  But what if Timothy had arrived in Rome one day too late?  What if he had been attending a leadership conference or working on a special program at church?  What if he didn’t go because he just thought it wasn’t that important and Rome was a long way off?  I would like to believe that Timothy dropped everything he was doing and took these items to his Mentor. Our Lord has many children who are going through cold seasons of their lives such as sickness, depression, divorce or maybe the loss of a dear loved one.  They may need someone willing to come before winter and provide feeders of health, holiness, and happiness. The snow is going to fly, and winter will come, the question is, are you making preparations for yourself and others also?

  Mollie Steenson 3ABN Vice President

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Miracle Whip

Whenever I start getting into self-righteous works and getting away from God; I must ask myself some hard questions. In addition, whenever I realize that I’m promoting or soft-selling myself, I have no other choice but to examine myself. The apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 11:28 “But let a man examine himself…” Personally, I believe this Scripture pertains to every aspect of our lives, not just our outward signs of a relationship with Jesus. We are to put to death anything we endorse as being beneficial to the body of Christ, if it is not.

It’s a humbling thought to read in John 2:13-16 the account of Jesus entering the temple in Jerusalem and seeing the money changers taking advantage of God’s children, pretending it was for the benefit of His Kingdom. It’s only when we are totally willing to become servants of God that we can count ourselves nothing other than a child of obedience to Him. As obedient children, we must be willing to bow before Him, desiring to do only His will, not ours.

What if we had been there, standing in the outer court of the temple, promoting the carnal aspects of our lives, pretending we were in the perfect will of the Father? What if we saw Jesus sitting there, looking at our hypocrisies as we wondered what He was doing—not knowing He was about to demonstrate our desperate need to stop making profit by buying and selling our worldly wares and calling it righteousness? We would have had no idea what we were about to experience. All we would have cared about was our money in hand and the profit being made off the children of God. So many of the worshipers had come great distances and could not bring their sacrifices with them. The only way they could offer a sacrifice was to buy one from our table.

Jesus was just sitting there with a handful of small cords, weaving them together, and undoubtedly  making some sort of whip. What was He going to do with this whip? Then He stands to His feet with whip in hand and heads toward us. The closer He gets the clearer the ungodly selling of oxen, sheep and doves for profit is revealed. All of a sudden everyone’s animals begin to scatter. He overturns every one of the money changer’s tables—scattering their CD’s everywhere, destroying their sets of DVD’s, and spilling their entire rack of books to the ground.

Would we fall on our face before Him in godly humility realizing His ways are higher than our ways, or run from Him as did the animals? If we had humbled ourselves in this mental picture, we might have opened our eyes and saw something hanging down near His leg; it would have been a “Miracle Whip.” A Miracle Whip in the hands of Christ could drive out every self-serving sacrifice of our lives that is devoid of God’s purpose. Though physically untouched by that miracle whip, it could open the eyes of our heart to see the necessity of our leaving the outer court of works and entering into a place of total commitment to Christ.

The opening to the outer court is wide, anyone may enter in, but the opening into the Holy place of service is narrow. There is no room for anyone worldly to enter in, only those who desire to be like Him and are willing to die to self. The apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:10, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” Jesus will never stop drawing us into His presence as long as we continue to allow Him to cleanse our temples with the “Miracle Whip” of His Word and His love.

Dear Lord, at Your next advent, please don’t let us still be found in the outer court as were some at Your Passover, but challenge us to get past what many churches and Christians say You are and let us know who You are. Lord help us understand that You are not huge buildings, silver communion services, padded pews, or harmonious choirs. Please let us see who You really are; You are the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. Please Lord, turn over all the self-made tables of our lives and lead us into a place of serving You without any selfish motives.

Galatians 2:20
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Pastor Hal Steenson