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

The Man Born Blind

The Man Born Blind

John 9:19-27
19 And they asked them, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”
20 His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but by what means he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know. He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24 So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.”
25 He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.”
26 Then they said to him again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?”
27 He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?” NKJV

Here is the story of an unnamed man.  He has been blind from birth…he has never seen the light of day…he has only experienced darkness his entire life.  All these things led to an uncertain future…a future which held no hope.  I can only imagine some of the thoughts this man may have had.  Maybe thoughts like, “What’s going to happen to me when my mother and father die?  What then?  Who will take care of me?”  Not really something to look forward to.
But in the midst of difficulty and hardship, the incredible happened.  This blind man came in contact with Jesus, and because of that meeting, he was completely healed, receiving his sight.  Amazing!  But here’s a kicker.  This miracle that Jesus did “coincidentally” took place on the Sabbath, and since the religious leaders believed this to be a violation of the Law, they were pretty hacked off.  The Pharisees questioned the man about the healing, hoping to get him to say something that would entrap Jesus, but he gave them no ammunition.  So then they went to the ex-blind man’s parents, threatening them with excommunication from the synagogue if they would not give them some “dirt” that would help with their plans against Jesus.  But the parents told them to ask their son.  So back to the ex-blind man with their intimidation-tactics and accusations against Christ.  But it still did not work.  That’s when we read those incredible words that the ex-blind man spoke to the Pharisees. 
Whether He is a sinner or not, I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.”
What a statement of faith, and what a statement of courage!  No fear of the religious leaders, and no consideration for himself, but only heart-felt gratitude for the One who opened his eyes.  After this encounter with Christ, not only could he see, but he also received an infusion of God’s strength.  Remember the old “NO FEAR” brand of tee-shirts?  This guy could have invented the slogan.  What an example for us!
“One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.”  He wasn’t anyone special.  In fact we are never given his name.  He’s just “the blind guy.”  But, oh, how Jesus changed his life.  And now there is only “one thing” that dictates the priorities of his life, and nothing would shake him from that declaration.
It reminds me of these words from the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:16.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…”
May we as men also distill our life down to “one thing,” and then live accordingly.  Whether we face persecution, or hardship, or threats, or recrimination, or inconvenience, or temptation, or maybe even the pleasure of all kinds of creature-comforts…may none of thosethings move us from our “one thing.”
Men…let’s keep our hearts focused clearly on Christ, keeping in the forefront of our minds that we once were blind, but now we see.  Previously blind from His love, His call, and His purpose…but now we see the One who has adopted us into His family.  I want to be numbered with those who are committed:
to live…
to proclaim…
to demonstrate…
to continually seek after…
that “one thing.”
May the “one thing” of our knowing Christ keep us steady regardless of the size of any storm we may face.
Blessings,
Gene Pietrini
“For if God be on our side, what matter maketh it who be against us,
be they bishops, cardinals, popes, or whatsoever names they will?”
– William Tyndale

 

The Romans 16 Crew

The Romans 16 Crew

Romans 16:3-15
Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house.
Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ. Greet Mary, who labored much for us. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
Greet Amplias, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys, my beloved. 10 Greet Apelles, approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus. 11 Greet Herodion, my countryman.  Greet those who are of the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.  12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, who have labored in the Lord. Greet the beloved Persis, who labored much in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them. 15 Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.

The Apostle Paul wrote the letter to the Romans during his third missionary trip while he was in Corinth.  At this point, Paul had not yet been to Rome.  Although Paul addresses several issues facing the church there, it is this letter that establishes the doctrine that salvation comes by faith in Christ alone (Sola fide).

In the first several verses of chapter 16, Paul sends his greetings and appreciation to those who were instrumental in establishing the Gospel and churches in Rome.  Of all the names listed here in Romans 16, probably Priscilla and Aquila are the only really recognizable names.  They were a married couple who pastored and are mentioned other places in scripture, but all those other names in the Romans 16 Crew are pretty unrecognizable.  And although not known to us, they were all people who were very important to the Apostle Paul.  These were co-laborers with him for the sake of the Gospel.  These were people who had served, sacrificed, and suffered to bring the Good News to Rome.  Paul wants them to know just how much he loves and appreciates them…so he calls them by name.

Can you imagine when this letter was read aloud in the church, just how excited each of these people must have been to hear their name mentioned?  What an honor!  There’s an old quote attributed to Dale Carnegie that says, “There is no sweeter sound to one’s ear than the sound of his name.”  If there’s any truth to that, there’s a few people in that list that may have been disappointed.  There are a few others that seem to be mentioned, but not by name.  There is “the household of Aristobulus,” “the household of Narcissus,” “Nereus and his sister,” and “all the saints who are with them.”  I wonder if any of these unnamed people were thinking as they heard the letter read, “Hey, Paul…you mentioned everyone else by name, but you forgot me!  What’s up with that?  I’ve been working hard for the Gospel, too!”  What WAS up with that?  Were there too many people to list?  Had Paul forgotten their names?  Couldn’t he at least give a shout-out to Nereus’ sister, instead of just calling her “Nereus’ sister”?

That may not be an accurate depiction of what those people were thinking, but I think that kind of mindset is more prevalent today than we might care to admit.  There are men who want to be acknowledged for what they do.  There are men who want to be patted on the back for their service.  There are men who want to hear their name said out loud for everyone else to hear.  And although we should give honor where it’s due, is that why we serve?

Some of the “unsung heroes” in our series have been mentioned by name, and others have not.  But whether we know their names or not, God does.  Listen to these words from the writer of Hebrews.

Hebrews 10:6
10 For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.   NLT

Maybe we get a badge that says “Best Volunteer Ever,” but maybe we don’t.  Guys, God is the one who sees it all, knows it all (even Nereus’ sister’s name), and He is the One who will ultimately reward us.  Always remember who and what our service is about.  It’s about bringing glory to Him.  Learning to live in that confidence is a big step of faith and a big step towards maturity for all of us.
So let’s step up!

1 Corinthians 10:31
31 So…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Blessings,
Gene Pietrini

“The stamp of the Saint is that he can waive his own rights and obey the Lord Jesus.”
― C.S. Lewis