Four Friends

Four Friends

Mark 2:3-4

Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.   NKJV

What an incredible story.  This is it in a nutshell.  The four friends of a paralyzed guy do whatever it takes to get him to Jesus.  They did and their friend is healed – end of story.  We don’t know who the paralyzed man is, but we know he is the recipient of an incredible miracle.  But those four friends just disappear into the background of the story.  Yet these four unknown are the linchpin to their friend’s healing.  How do I know that?  Because Luke 5:17 says “the power of the Lord was present to heal.”  If those men could not get their friend to where Jesus was, there would have been no healing that day for him.

I was thinking about how there was nothing in it for these four men.  They just did what they did selflessly, with only one thing in mind — help for a friend who is in need.  When that day started, their intention was to carry their friend to Jesus.  That is already a great act of compassion.  Think about it…each man carrying a corner of a mat being used as a stretcher…shouldering the weight of their friend.  We don’t know how heavy the paralyzed man was, and we don’t know how far they had to carry him, but regardless of what the answers are, what is true is that they carried out a great act of kindness.  And when they couldn’t get near Jesus, they didn’t throw in the towel and say, “Sorry.  We gave it our best shot.”

Instead, they rolled up their sleeves with an attitude that said, “We didn’t come this far just to be turned away.”  So they began hauling him up to the top of the roof — that had to be even more difficult!  But that still wasn’t the end.  They had to dismantle the homeowner’s roof.  I love the HGTV show “Fixer Upper,” and I know that Chip Gaines loves demo day, but demolition is hard work.  Usually demolition is at the beginning, but for these four friends it was after all they had already done.  They had to be pretty spent already.  But it didn’t stop them.  And when it was all said and done, their friend walked away healed.

Both the Mark 2 and Luke 5 accounts record that after the healing, the eyewitnesses all gave glory and praise to God.  Nothing is said about people proclaiming, “Let’s hear it for the four friends that worked so hard!”  It didn’t happen.  But although the narrative doesn’t say this, I can’t but help but think that this is true — that every time those four men saw their friend walking around town, no longer confined to a mat, they were grateful to God for his miracle and grateful that they just got to be a part of it.

Guys, let’s be those who have no interest in reading about ourselves in the media, no interest in how followers we have on Facebook, but rather being satisfied with the fact that God loves us so much that He would allow us to participate in the work He’s doing!

During this Christmas season, let’s be self-less and God-glorifying.

Blessings and Merry Christmas,

Gene Pietrini

“I shall pass through this world but once. Any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
– Henry Drummond

 

Hanani

Hanani 

2 Chronicles 16:7-10
And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said to him: “Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand. Were the Ethiopians and the Lubim not a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.” 10 Then Asa was angry with the seer, and put him in prison, for he was enraged at him because of this. And Asa oppressed some of the people at that time.   NKJV

Asa was the king of Judah and loved God.  You can read in 2 Chronicles 14 how King Asa and the nation of Judah went to war against Ethiopia although they were outnumbered nearly two to one.  Asa knew they did not have a chance, but his faith was in God, and God brought a miraculous victory to Judah.  Immediately following the battle a prophet came to Asa with a message from God.  The prophetic message said, “The Lord will stay with you as long as you stay with Him.”  At that time King Asa’s life was pleasing to God and as a result, the nation knew peace for many years.  But after a period of time, something had changed.  Maybe things were going so good that Asa stopped trusting God like he had before.

There then came another time during King Asa’s reign when Judah was again threatened by an enemy, but instead of trusting God, Asa chose to ally himself with an enemy nation.  To make things worse he paid for this unholy alliance with the gold and silver from God’s house.  And God wasn’t pleased.  So he sent a prophet by the name of Hanani to bring Asa a word of correction.  This time King Asa was not so happy to hear God’s message.  In fact Asa grew extremely angry, and imprisoned Hanani.  Think about that.  Hanani was imprisoned by God’s anointed king for being obedient to deliver God’s message to him.

This is not the “feel-good” lesson most of us want to hear, yet it is part and parcel of the Christian experience.  Doing the right thing…being obedient to God’s Word and God’s promptings…following a path that can place you in a precarious situation that does not always end up like a gift-package wrapped in a bow.  Those things, though God-honoring, can result in being misunderstood, mistreated, and being paid back evil for goodness.  That is what Hanani experienced.  He brings the king a message from God Himself, an exhortation of correction which was ultimately for the king’s benefit.  But this word was not received by the king as beneficial.  Instead, King Asa saw it as insulting, and it angered him greatly.  Consequently, Hanani’s obedience to bring God’s message was paid back with his being thrown into prison.  It’s interesting to note that the scriptures never tell us if Hanani was ever released from prison.  We can assume there is the possibility of him having died there.

When Hanani took that message to King Asa, I believe he knew the peril he could potentially face.  I think he was an eye-witness to the downward spiral of a king who initially pleased God, but also whose trust in God began to wane.  I also think Hanani knew there was great potential for his obedience to go badly, but still he obeyed.  He was right.  And as a result he paid a great price.

Men, obeying God is not always an easy thing to do (no kidding!), and the ramifications of that obedience might not always be something you look forward to.  I think the question we have to ask ourselves is this, “Why do we obey when obedience requires us to do something very difficult?”  Is it because we think there is a blessing attached to it, or do we obey solely for the sake of obeying God?  Men, if you have known God, my hope is that the answer to your question is the latter.  That our obedience to His word is based solely on our love for Him.

Remember the words Jesus said in John 14:23.

23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word…”.
What the scripture doesn’t say is this, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, but only when it’s easy.”

Let’s be the kind of men who obey even in the hard things…even when it costs us.

Blessings,

Gene Pietrini

When you suffer and lose, that does not mean you are being disobedient to God.  In fact, it might mean you’re right in the centre of His will.  The path of obedience is often marked by times of suffering and loss.” –  Charles Swindoll

Enoch

Enoch

Genesis 5:21-24
21 Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah. 22 After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters. 23 So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. 24 And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. NKJV

Enoch is one of those Old Testament figures of whom not much was written, but the little that was written speaks volumes. Enoch lived in an evil time and was surrounded by evil. That was the state of mankind before the flood during Noah’s time. (Noah was Enoch’s great-grandson.) The scripture tells us Enoch lived 365 years, but at sixty-five years of age he started walking with God. What happened when he was sixty-five? What caused him to start “walking” with God then? Was he disillusioned with what he saw around him? Did the evil of the day take a toll on his life that caused him to realize the shallowness of a sinful life? Was he living a sinful life himself and finally came to the place where he recognized it brought an emptiness? Did he realize that there was a goodness (since God’s character is good) that was inert in his surroundings? We don’t know; we’re not told. What we do know is that at sixty-five he turned to the Righteous God, and then walked with Him for the next three hundred years.

Men, that’s a lot of years of faithfulness. But for those three hundred years, Enoch just kept walking with God. Does that mean he lived a perfect life, devoid of any mistakes? I don’t think so, but I do think that in the challenges and difficulties of life, he just kept putting one foot in front of the other. And one day, (v. 24) “God took him.”

Hebrews 11:5-6
5 By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. NKJV

It’s amazing that this man, who had so little written about him, was listed in Hebrews 11. Where God “took” Enoch is speculative, uncertain, and debated, but what happened to his life and to his body is not the important part of the story. What IS important is that Enoch walked with God, and God was pleased. Enoch’s name in Hebrew means “dedicated,” and after his encounter with God, that’s how Enoch lived his life, as a dedicated follower who pleased God. I don’t know about you, but that convicts me and challenges me all at the same time.

What was it about Enoch’s “walk” that caused God to be “pleased”? The Scriptures tell us in
1 Chronicles 29:17, 17 I know also, my God, that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness… NKJV
For the word “uprightness,” other translations say “integrity” and “honesty.” But that’s how Enoch “walked” with God…in uprightness, integrity, and honesty, which was contrary to the culture of the time. And that put a smile on God’s face.

Enoch is an example of how when a man has a genuine, sincere encounter with God, regardless of the evilness of the culture that surrounds him, he can rise above it and walk faithfully with God in uprightness, integrity, and honesty. What a joy to know that I can actually put a smile on God’s face. And men, you can, too.

Blessings,
Gene Pietrini

Proverbs 3:3-4
“Never let go of loyalty and faithfulness. Tie them around your neck; write them on your heart. If you do this, both God and people will be pleased with you.” (GNT)

Jabez

Jabez

1 Chronicles 4:9-10
9 Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” 10 Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. NIV

Jabez is not a very well-known character in the Bible. I think he became more well-known when a little, self-helps book was written about His prayer. But I’m not going to say that if you pray his prayer then all your wildest dreams will come true. Nevertheless, Jabez’ name and his prayer made it in the Bible, so it would be worth a look.

When you read the scriptures you discover that Jabez’ name means “pain.” How would you like having “Pain” for a name? Imagine what that would be like growing up. “Hey, everyone, here comes Pain.” “He is such a Pain!” “Hey, Pain, how are you feeling today?” Doesn’t sound like much fun for a kid. Reminds me of an old Johnny Cash song called “A Boy Named Sue.” Now, I realize that a woman’s labor is something that can hurt immensely, and that many of life’s challenges we face can cause suffering , but when it comes to naming your newborn, please, do not name your kid “Pain.” Don’t you realize it has the possibility to mark your child and have a negative impact on their life?

But in Jabez’ case, that didn’t happen. I love how verse 9 says, “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers.” Even in the face of the label that Jabez carried, he did not allow it to define him. In fact, he was more honorable than the brothers. In fact, in the Scriptures (verses 9 and 10) he is the only one of his family mentioned by name. That’s impressive. And the man knew how to pray, too. Even in the midst of being labeled “Pain,” Jabez still prayed and asked God for His blessing and guidance…and God did it for him!

Men, I don’t know what negative thing you may have been labeled with, but let me encourage you…you do not have to let that label define what the contents of your life contain. Even in the midst of that negative label, keep your attention focused on Him. Remember, you have been made in the image of God, and have become a new creature in Christ Jesus…born of His Spirit. Don’t allow names or labels others may place on you to determine your future. Don’t let pain sideline you. Continue to cry out what Jabez prayed, “God, let your hand be with me.” Because when God is for you, it really doesn’t matter who is against you…because God is for you! And when you learn to trust God in the midst of pain and difficulty, friend, God says that’s honorable!

Blessings,
Gene Pietrini

“Job never saw why he suffered, but he saw God, and that was enough.”
– Timothy Keller

The Some and the Others

The Some and the Others

Hebrews 11:35-39
35 Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. 39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.   NLT
There is a good chance that you have heard Hebrews chapter 11 referred to as the “Faith Hall of Fame.”  In the earlier part of the chapter we find many “faith giants” listed like Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Samson, David, Samuel, and others.
If you grew up going to Sunday school in your earlier days, these Hebrews 11-guys were the ones we learned about while our eyes were glued to the flannelboard.  We knew their stories, and we knew the great exploits that took place through their lives for the Kingdom of God.  How many of you men have ever wished you were young David…dropping a giant with a slingshot while an entire army was paralyzed with fear?  Or being so endued with strength by God, that you could actually carry away the gates of an enemy city on your back like Samson did?
These are the heroes of faith whose names we know, and whose great acts we look up to.  But I think the “nameless” ones listed in verses 35 through 39 are “faith giants” of the first order.
I think people love “larger-than-life” heroes, because those are the kinds of heroes we will never become.  Consequently, we can “ooooh” and “aaaaah” for those heroes, but what they did really has no bearing on our personal  lives.  Why?  Because in our minds those heroes are in a whole other category than we are.  We could never aspire to that place.
But then we have the “unnamed” people listed in verses 35 through 39.  Their exploits are very different than the ones spoken of by that first bunch.  Unfortunately there are some Christians who would look at these believers and blame their hardships and difficulties on their “not having enough faith.”  Because, “if they really had faith, their lives would be marked by blessing, abundance, and health.”  Friend, that is nonsense.
Don’t write these “nameless” ones off.  That’s why these verses are so important.  The people described here were the ordinary, unknown, nameless believers.  But they didn’t sit and complain about the difficulties they were facing.  They didn’t run away when all hell had broken loose.  They didn’t see the deliverance or victory that perhaps they were hoping to see.  But they never gave up, and they continued to trust in their God. They were faithful to the end.  The faith of these “unnamed” was not based on the accolades of people, but rather on love, conviction, and commitment to God.
And God noticed everything each one of those people stood for, suffered for, and endured.  And they did it all for His sake alone.  Friend, that’s faith.  Real faith.  Huge faith.  And although people down here on earth may not know who those “nameless” ones were, everyone in heaven does.  That’s why verse 39 says, “All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith…”  And that is what truly counts, isn’t it?
Are you content to be a “nameless” one?  Are you content to continually entrust your life to Christ even when things do not turn out exactly how you would have liked them to turn out?  When you choose to live your life like that, then you are one of those “nameless” who have “earned a good reputation because of their faith…”
I believe the Apostle Peter said it best in 1 Peter 5:5-7. 
5 … be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.   NKJV
I believe that in the heart of God, Hebrews 11 is an ongoing, continually-being-written chapter.  Men, let’s live so that we, though “nameless,” are written in there, too!
Blessings,
Gene Pietrini
 
We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.
-Martin Luther King

Barnabas

Barnabas

Acts 4:36
36 For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus.   NLT
 
Acts 9:26-28
26 When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They did not believe he had truly become a believer! 27 Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus and how the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them that Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus. 28 So Saul stayed with the apostles and went all around Jerusalem with them, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.  NLT
Although Barnabas may not be well-known to you, he was actually well known in the early church.  He is mentioned as one who was very generous in the church’s infancy (Acts 4:37).  But did you know that Barnabas wasn’t his real name?  It was Joseph.  “Barnabas” was actually a nickname given to him by the apostles.  “Barnabas” actually means “Son of Encouragement.”
Think about that.  Nicknames are not usually conveyed on someone for no reason.  A nickname may be a shortened version of a proper name (like, William being called Bill), or it may refer to a particular characteristic of a person (like, a vertically-challenged person being called, Shorty).  And Joseph was an encourager, so he was called “Barnabas.”  He lifted people…he lifted their spirits…he made a person’s day better just because he was around.  He believed in people.  When you left Barnabas’ presence, you were just glad that your path crossed his that day.
Barnabas saw people differently.  He saw them with different eyes.  His perception of people would often go cross-grain to the consensus.  Why?  Because he truly believed in the redeeming, transformational work of Christ, and he allowed that belief to shape the way he treated people.  I’ve seen people get pigeon-holed because someone refused to recognize that a person can actually become “new creatures in Christ Jesus.”  And it’s usually with reasons that may sound something like this, “Well, they have always been like that, and they will never change.”  Barnabas didn’t believe like that.
It’s one thing to say you believe in someone, but it’s another thing to say you believe in someone…get in their corner…stand with that person in the face of opposition…and even help the person.
And that’s what Barnabas did for a man named Saul of Tarsus.  Saul was well-known for being a hater of Christians…a man determined to destroy the early church…active in having believers (even families) imprisoned…standing by and consenting to the stoning death of Stephen.  But Saul had a dramatic conversion to Christ on the road to Damascus while he was actively pursuing that agenda (Acts 9:1-19).  And although many disciples were skeptical of Saul’s conversion and were still afraid of him, Barnabas wasn’t.  He got in Saul’s corner.  He even went on a missionary trip with him.  In fact he even pastored a church in Antioch with Saul (Acts 11:25-26).  No one else was willing to stick their neck out like that.  But Barnabas the “Son of Encouragement” did.
Men, let’s be like Barnabas.  Let’s be encouragers.  Let’s believe in people.  Let’s see people through the eyes of Christ.  At times it may take courage, but God’s grace is well able to supply it.  Is there someone you can lift today?  I bet there is!
Proverbs 12:25
25 Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.  NLT
Why don’t you encourage someone’s heart today, and you can be a “Son of Encouragement,” too.
Blessings,
Gene Pietrini
  
“Anyone can find the dirt in someone.  Be the one that finds the gold.”
–   Unknown

The Shepherds

The Shepherds

Luke 2:8-20
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior-yes, the Messiah, the Lord-has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others-the armies of heaven-praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished,  19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.   NLT
The first declaration, from heaven itself, telling of the birth of Christ was made to shepherds.
Shepherds were not people of social status. They were the lowly, the outcasts…in today’s political-vernacular, they would be the “deplorables.”  Their work alone made them ceremonially unclean.  They regularly came in contact with, not only, animals considered unclean by Jewish law…but also with the carcasses of dead animals which was definitely prohibited.  In the Jewish “Mishnah” which was a written record of the Oral Law, refers to shepherds as being “incompetent, ” that “no one should ever feel obligated to rescue a shepherd who has fallen into a pit.”  Friend, that’s not very high up the status scale.  These weren’t the ones most people would invite to Starbucks, or even to church.  These were outcasts.  Who wants to hang with outcasts?
Well, apparently God does.  When He’s getting ready to have the angel announce the birth of His only Son…when He is ready to declare the coming of the Savior, the Prince of Peace, the Messiah, He does not send His angel to the priests, the Pharisees, the religious leaders, the spiritually elite, the “one-percenters.”  He sends the message of salvation first to the lowly, deplorable outcast.
Men, just because the world may not think much of you, or just because you may not have the most pedigreed credentials, don’t think for a moment that God overlooks you.  On the contrary, that lowliness is the calling card that God sees as a qualifier.  Don’t tell me God doesn’t have His eye on you!
Ezekiel 21:26
26 This is what the Sovereign Lord says:  “Take off your jeweled crown, for the old order changes.  Now the lowly will be exalted, and the mighty will be brought down.   NLT
But the other part of this story that is so uplifting is that after hearing the announcement, these “social outcasts” didn’t sit around and wallow in their “lowliness.”  They went to Bethlehem and found the Christ-child.  And then verse 17 says, “After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.”  Amazing!  Even though their lives may have been filled with prejudice, mistreatment, and injustice against them, they knew this news was too good to bottle up.  Even their enemies needed to hear this good news.  So these outcast shepherds gave their voice to the message that was first brought to these lowly ones.  A message the proud desperately needed to hear.
Maybe you identify with the lowly outcast.  That’s alright, as long as it’s the lowly outcast that came to realize God had not lost sight of him, and had actually entrusted him with a message of hope worth more than gold, and was willing to share that hope even with those that viewed him as hopeless.
Men, my prayer is that you would see the value that the God of heaven sees in you, and that through His grace and strength you rise above any label, any injustice, any mistreatment that has discouraged you or held you down.  Listen friend…God’s love will make you bigger than you ever dreamed you could be!
Blessings,
Gene Pietrini
“The will of God will not take us where the
grace of God cannot sustain us.”
–  Billy Graham

Naaman

Naaman

2 Kings 5:1, 9-18
1 Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper.

9 Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’  
12 Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”  14 So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. 15 And he returned to the man of God, he and all his aides, and came and stood before him; and he said, “Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel; now therefore, please take a gift from your servant.” 16 But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. 17 So Naaman said, “Then, if not, please let your servant be given two mule-loads of earth; for your servant will no longer offer either burnt offering or sacrifice to other gods, but to the LORD. 18 Yet in this thing may the LORD pardon your servant: when my master goes into the temple of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow down in the temple of Rimmon-when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD please pardon your servant in this thing.”   NKJV

Naaman was the commander of the Syrian army. He was a pagan general. So why on earth would he be considered an unsung hero? Because he’s a picture of the pride-filled, self-sufficient man who thinks he’s above everyone else, yet when Naaman has an encounter with the God of Israel, we see an incredibly radical, life-changing transformation take place in him. It’s a lesson to all of us.

Here is a mighty man who commanded the respect of all those around him, including his soldiers, the citizens of Syria, and even the king. But all the respect in the world could not save him from the unfortunate event of having contracted leprosy. This was a death sentence for him except for a miracle, and the Syrian gods weren’t providing any of those. But in this hopeless situation we discover a young, Israeli slave girl who has the courage to inform others that there is a prophet in Samaria who could heal him.

After a series of events, the King of Syria communicates with the King of Israel requesting that Naaman be given an audience with Elisha the Prophet. The request is granted and Naaman and his escorts travel to Samaria to Elisha’s home.  But when Naaman arrives, Elisha will not even give this great general the time-of-day. Instead he sends his servant out to him. To a general and a nobleman, this was an insult and highly disrespectful. And then to add insult to injury, Naaman is told to go dip seven times in the dirty Jordan River. He refuses. He is not a happy camper. Rather than suffer any more indignities and blows to his pride, he decides to leave and go back to Syria as a leper still…until a very brave servant confronts him to his face and asks him a very simple question. “Why not?”

Naaman’s heart is pierced through that confrontation, and right there in front of his servants and soldiers, this great general humbles himself. He displaces his pride with humility, and chooses to obey the word of the Lord. He goes down to the dirty old Jordan and dips seven times. And when he does, God healed him.

But he did not just receive a physical healing; he also received a heart transformation. He had had an encounter with the Living God. And when Naaman returned to Syria, he was no longer the same man. He was a believer in the God of Israel. He brought soil back from Samaria so that when he was required to accompany the king of Syria into the temple to worship their false gods, when he bowed down, it was on the soil of Samaria. His body may have been in the Syrian temple of a false god, but his heart was set on the God of Israel. And all those around him understood what he was doing. Naaman was unafraid and unashamed to make known that his life had been changed. And he would not deny it. What a story and what inspiration.

Has Christ made an impact on our lives like that? Where our pride or fear of representing Christ may cost us, but we no longer care? Where our pride or fear is overcome by a heart of gratitude, overwhelmed by His kindness towards us. Where our pride or fear begins to take a back seat in our lives, regardless of from whom it may separate us? Men…may we have the heart of the psalmist who declares these words:

Psalm 119:46
46 I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame, NIV

Blessings,
Gene Pietrini

“Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.”
– Augustine

Simeon

Simeon

 

 

 

 

 


Luke 2:25-32

25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. 30 I have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared for all people. 32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” NLT

There is not much known of the Simeon spoken of in Luke 2. There are no other historical records regarding Simeon that give us a glimpse into his life. What’s written here is all we get. But when you look at these verses you discover an incredible picture of an incredibly godly man; a powerful example of a man whose focus and attention is laser-pointed on God.

The text shows us that Simeon was very old and was probably very close to death. He was righteous and devout. That was not the norm for an Israelite. He lived in a very dark time for Israel. The nation had lost its independence and was occupied by Rome. Its religious leaders were self-righteous, hypocritical leaders full of arrogance, pride, with a “better-than-everyone-else” attitude. They were full of themselves and empty of God. Israel, God’s chosen, was a backslidden, apostate people. But God has always reserved a remnant to himself. And Simeon was one of those. Regardless of his dark surroundings, Simeon lived in the light.

Simeon loved God with a pure heart, and that same heart longed to see the coming of Israel’s Savior. Although the scriptures do not say when God revealed to Simeon that he would see “…the Lord’s Messiah,” it does seem as though it happened many years prior to this story. And it’s something that Simeon never lost sight of over the course of those many years.

Simeon’s hope, faith, and trust was not abandoned due to a prolonged waiting period. He was confident in God’s faithfulness to do what He said, even though it took a long time. And when God said, “Simeon, today’s the day. Get over to the temple,” his ears were still in tune with what God had told him many years before. He knew exactly what was happening. Simeon had never forgotten the promise God made.

More than thirty years later after this event, Jesus tells a parable in Luke 12. Simeon is a vivid example of what Jesus was speaking. Listen to these words.
Luke 12:35-37
35 “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning;
36 and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching.” NKJV

Has there ever been anything you believed God spoke to your heart, but still has not come to pass? Let me ask you a question. Is God’s faithfulness subject to our timeline, or is it subject to His infinite wisdom? The answer is obviously the latter. But how often do we lose sight of God’s promise because its manifestation didn’t happen when we wanted to see it happen?

May we be men who never let loose of our faith in God and His promises. May we have the heart and faithfulness of Simeon who, in spite of a long waiting period, still kept his ear peeled for the voice of God, and when he heard, obeyed.

Just think of what his faithfulness and obedience allowed him to witness. What might yours allow you to see?

Blessings,
Gene Pietrini

“Faith is the ‘yes’ of the heart, a conviction on which one stakes one’s life.”
– Martin Luther

Benaiah

Benaiah

2 Samuel 23:20
20 There was also Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant warrior from Kabzeel. He did many heroic deeds, which included killing two champions of Moab. Another time, on a snowy day, he chased a lion down into a pit and killed it. NLT

Benaiah is probably not a Bible name lodged in the forefront of your memory banks, but he was actually well-known in Israel as one of David’s “Thirty Mighty Men,” so he actually has quite a bit of notoriety. But this one verse really stands out. “…on a snowy day, he chased a lion down into a pit and killed it.” Who does that? Who would even think of doing that? But in the midst of a crazy story, let’s look at an incredible lesson that can be found.

Think about this. Lions are not domesticated creatures. They are wild, massive, fierce, and dangerous. The Bible says that our enemy, the devil, goes around like one seeking to devour us. And this is what I think is crazy. Benaiah chases this lion into a pit (not the other way around). So now Benaiah is in this pit…surrounded…no way of escape, with a ferocious killer. And it’s a snowy day. He’s not wearing vibram-soled sandals that could give him better traction and footing in the snow. He’s wearing leather sandals that would make him unstable as he slips and slides around in that pit. This, my friend, would appear to be a disaster waiting to happen. An impossible situation. A situation where only one is coming out of that pit alive. And it most likely wouldn’t be human.

Lions are pictures of strength. It has the strength to strike down an ox and carry it off in its mouth. No wonder he’s called “king of the beasts”? Lions take down 600-pound plains zebras and 1000-pound cape buffalo on a regular basis. One swipe from a lion’s paw can crush a human skull, and its teeth can penetrate any human bone. Who wants to face off in close quarters with an adversary like that? Benaiah did. And here is what is so amazing…Benaiah came out the winner. You’re thinking, “That’s a miracle!” Well, you’re right.

Here’s what I see in this amazing story. Benaiah didn’t run from his problem. He brought the problem into the pit where there was nowhere he could go…there was nothing else he could do but face it. When he got a glimpse of that lion up close, I’m sure he was well aware of the fact that it was impossible for him to defeat it. But here’s the thing…all things are possible when you bring God into your impossibility. Benaiah didn’t have to go into that pit; he chose to. And consequently, he came out of the pit as conqueror and victor over quite a huge problem. What a beautiful illustration of implicit trust in the God of Power and Might.

Men, we all have “lions” in our lives that seek to devour us. That “lion” could be an addiction, a broken marriage, a life-threatening illness, a fear of the future…you “fill-in-the-blank.” Don’t ignore it or run from it; take it into the pit where you have to face it. But trust God that when you face that impossibility, you face it with the One for whom nothing is impossible. And regardless of how additional conditions can make a dangerous situation even more dangerous (like a pit…on a snowy day), with God there is no difficulty, no storm, no fire, no hurricane that can reinforce your defeat.
Friend, if you follow the “lion” into the pit with God, you are coming out the winner.

Isaiah 59:19
19 …When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. NKJV

Here’s to devouring a few “lions” that have been looking to devour us. Let’s embrace the courage of Benaiah.

Blessings,
Gene Pietrini

“God loves with a great love the man whose heart
is bursting with a passion for the impossible.”
– William Boothe