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Sunday Sermon - 2/03/02 
Bread And Stone - Matthew 7:9

 The hard-drive of the Friday Study computer “crashed” this week.  Much was backed-up but email addresses were lost.  If you'd like to receive weekly emails from Friday Study Ministries Inc., contact: ron@fridaystudy.org

Bread and Stone

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” (Matthew 7:9)

There’s something about a son or daughter that draws us to GIVE.  Two of my three children have kids of their own and it’s a joy to watch them delight in their little ones.

It’s normal to want to give to our children and it should be even more natural to pray for them.  The reverse is often true for many indulge when we should be more inclined to pray.

God always answers prayer.  We see this in such places as Matthew 21:22, where Jesus said, “all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”  The statement is qualified in 1 John 5:14, where John the Apostle provided additional information: “if we ask anything according to His WILL, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

To understand prayer, we need to see Jesus’ role as “High Priest” (Hebrews 7:26) of all those who trust in Him.  One function of the High Priest in Israel was to offer a sacrifice for the sins of the people. Another work involved prayer for them.  As to the sacrifice, Jesus fulfilled this utterly “once for all when He offered up Himself” (Hebrews 7:27).  Jesus, our High Priest, gave Himself for you and me.

His gift was completely accepted by God the Father, because Jesus, our Representative, lived His life on earth completely without sin (Hebrews 7:26).  The sacrifice had to be perfect and Jesus was the ideal sacrifice (substitute) for us all.  The Innocent died for the guilty and the Father has accepted Him – for you.

The High Priest in Israel prayed for the sins of the people.  Jesus Christ is continually praying (interceding) for us and His method is to “fix” our prayers; to bring them into line with God’s will for your life and mine.  Our prayers are answered but sometimes not as we would expect.

Hannah Whitall Smith (“Daily Secrets of the Christian Life") made a wonderful observation about prayer in relation to the life of Saint Augustine.  She reported, “The mother of Saint Augustine, in her longing for the conversion of her son (to Christ), prayed that he might not go to Rome, because she feared its dissipations.  God answered her by sending him (Augustine) to Rome to be converted there.” 

Augustine’s mother cried out to the Lord, “Don’t let my son go to Rome,” because she wanted GOOD for her son.  She wanted him to find faith in God through Jesus Christ and to know the grace of God.  She thought, “if only he would stay HERE, he might come to the Lord!”  If he went to Rome, he might be lost forever!

Jesus wanted the same thing as she did - Augustine’s conversion.  They each had the same goal, but because the Lord’s perspective is infinitely better (He knows the future), He altered her prayer in such a manner that the ultimate goal (her son’s salvation) was achieved.

How she must have WEPT to learn of her son’s impending journey from North Africa (present day Algeria) to Rome.  How sad it is when our job is lost or a medical report is unfavorable.  Our loved one might be lost, even though we prayed constantly, and we have wondered, “Did God hear me?”  Or, “Did I not pray the right prayer?”  “Is there something wrong with me that He did not answer?”

What’s “wrong” is that we do not really understand prayer.

I was fascinated by what just happened to the hard drive of the Friday Study Ministries computer.  A few days ago, the computer did not shut down properly.  The following morning, it would not start up.  It seemed confused, and then the dreaded words appeared on the DOS screen:  "Hard Drive Failed!"  We informed our Board and asked for prayer.  We were already in progress for a technical upgrade and the computer expert, Thien, dropped over to see what he could do.  After some time, he stepped away from the computer, looking very much like a doctor with bad news, and said, "There's nothing I can do."

The Friday Study ministry has had two groups of people:  Those who visit www.fridaystudy.org and those who receive the sermons and studies by email.  The email addresses were gone and we could not access the website.  It turned out that much had been backed up, but the people seemed – gone!

While Thien was working on the computer, I prayed for it to be repaired - but it was the wrong prayer.

God has wonderful outcomes.  The computer was old and slow and needed to be replaced.  And I must mention that before the loss was completely “real”, a new computer was ordered through a Board Member.

The database of email recipients was gone but is being rebuilt, and if you know someone who should be included, let us know.  Is it hard work to restore that which was lost? -Yes.  Will the distribution be different than it was before?  Possibly, but the same Holy Spirit who put all this together before, is doing it again.   I thank God for those who sent in names, email addresses and encouragement. Within 3-days, 1/3 of the email database was rebuilt. God is good.  He gave us Himself and He gives us one another.

Now, you may have a REAL disaster in your life, whereas this one mostly involved stress and hard work.  We will certainly miss anyone who got “lost” when the hard drive crashed.  Hopefully they will write and ask why they no longer receive the studies, for we love them.  But as to anything written that needs to be recreated, Don Araiza said, "Who cares?"  And he is correct - God is in control (not us) and He operates out of love for you and me.

From a HUMAN perspective, Augustine's mother was right - he shouldn't have gone to sinful Rome.  It happened anyway, and off he sailed.  But shortly after he arrived, the Holy Spirit touched him through a man who told him the good news of Christ and he was changed - forever!  Had he heard the gospel before?  Yes he had.  But somehow, he needed to be in Rome for Christ to at last be personal and real to him.  Sometimes, the "wrong" thing must happen in our lives, to finally get us where we need to go 

Obtaining information from the damaged hard drive seems doubtful and the unavailable data may or may not be gone for good.  I do know that God is with us in our troubles.  Patiently, one step at a time, He leads us through areas we know little about, and He will complete the good work in our lives.  As Don Araiza said; "so you miss a week or two, who cares?"  The Holy Spirit cares (actually, so does Don), and though the outcome may not be what we expect, we will LIKE what is done, for He loves you and me.  For now, we are using another computer and a laptop, and soon all will be made new.  Yesterday evening, Ernie connected us once again with the website.  God is good.

None of this was loss and much was gained.  God sent human angels to us in the persons of Thien, Ernie, and our Board Members, Genevieve, Don, and  Don.  We received emails of encouragement, filled with names and addresses of many from the original email database.

Before the “crash”, I was getting tired and feeling “weight” from preparation of studies and sermons.  I needed a rest and (with some reluctance) got one.  I see anew that God is in this place and I'm reminded that He is in control.  Not me; not any one of us – God!

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” (Matthew 7:9).  Just as you want the best for your children, so God wants the best for you and me.  We do not know all the benefits that come from the troubles in our lives, anymore than we truly understand why Augustine had to go to Rome to be saved.  I do know that God has an excellent plan for our lives, and He will bring it to pass.  He always does.

Father, we bring You our troubles and sorrows.  We give You tired minds and hearts and ask for REST.  Let us understand like we never did before, that when we ask for “bread”, You will never give us a “stone”, for You love each one of us.  Thank You, Jesus, for dying for me.  Thank You for Your Spirit, who will see me through.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries

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