Mark Fox May 24, 2021

The Heart of the Matter is the Matter of the Heart

Perhaps you heard about the two churches that were struggling, losing members, having trouble paying the bills, getting discouraged. Since they were right across the street from one another, they began to have discussions about merging, joining forces, fighting and loving and praying and working together. The two congregations began to have covered dish suppers, the leaders from both churches began to meet together on a regular basis, and then finally the day came when they had a worship service…together! It started off wonderfully. Folks were intermingled so that each pew had people from both churches represented in it. When they were told to “greet one another,” there was electricity in the air as people hugged and shook hands and celebrated the unity they felt with the folks that had previously been referred to as “that church across the street.”

Then it happened. One of the pastors got up to lead the morning prayer, and ended it with a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, asking everyone to join him. The folks from the south side of the street said, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Those from the church on the north side said, “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” There was an embarrassing silence when the prayer was done. The pastor who led the prayer happened to be on the debtor side, and he wasn’t sure how to proceed, so he tried to make a joke out of it, saying something like, “Well, I guess we need to put up a ‘no trespassing’ sign in the building, heh, heh…um…OK, let’s all turn in our hymnals to page 232…” The service limped along to its conclusion, but the wind was out of the sails. There was a mechanical nature to the rest of the worship, a half-hearted listening to the sermon, which, ironically enough, was from the text, “Let each of you look out not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” When it was over, the people filed out, went home, and gave up on the idea of a merge. The newspaper reported that the one church went back to its debts, and the other back to its trespasses!

Then there was the story of the two unmarried sisters who lived together. There came a disagreement one day over an insignificant issue, and they stopped speaking to one another. Each was unwilling to move out, so they stayed together in a tiny house. They ate at the same table, at different times, and slept in the same bedroom. One of the sisters drew a line with chalk down the middle and it was understood that each sister was to stay on her side of the room, never to touch the other. The sisters would come and go, eat and sew, read and do hand-work, without ever once speaking a word to the other. This grinding silence went on for years because neither was willing to take the first step towards reconciliation.

I love the book of James in the Bible. I believe he would answer these churches and these sisters by going right to the heart of the matter. He says, “But what about the feuds and struggles that exist among you—where do you suppose they come from? Can’t you see that they arise from conflicting desires for pleasure within yourselves? You crave for something and don’t get it…you only want to satisfy your own desires.” (JB Phillips translation)

The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. That’s the source of our conflicts.

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Mark Fox May 24, 2021
Mark Fox May 9, 2021

God’s Refrigerator Art of Motherhood

A little boy said to the girl next door, “I wonder what my mother would like for Mother’s Day?” She said, “You could decide to keep your room clean and orderly and go to bed as soon as she calls you. You could brush your teeth without having to be told, and quit fighting with your brothers and sisters, especially at the dinner table.” He replied, “No, I mean something practical.”

On this Mother’s Day, I offer three practical gifts from Scripture. These are part of God’s refrigerator art if you will, pictures of faithful motherhood.

In Psalm 128, the mother is pictured as a fruitful vine in the very heart of the house. The godly mother has a central place of responsibility in the home that, though she may not see it through diaper pails and dishpan hands, will bear fruit for generations to come.

In 1 Samuel 1, the mother is pictured as the greatest intercessor her son would ever know. It was Hannah’s prayer that touched the hem of God’s garment, and it was Hannah’s spiritual influence on Samuel that shaped and prepared him to fulfill God’s calling on his life.

A London editor once submitted to Winston Churchill a list of all those who had been Churchill’s teachers. Churchill returned the list with this comment: “You have omitted to mention the greatest of my teachers—my mother.” And Charles Spurgeon said, “I cannot tell you how much I owe to the custom on Sunday evenings while we were yet children for Mother to stay home with us, and then we sat around the table and read verse after verse and she explained the Scriptures to us. Then came a mother’s prayer; and some of the words of our mother’s prayer we shall never forget even when our hair is gray.” I don’t know if there is a more powerful force on this earth than a mother’s prayers for her children.

In 2 Timothy 1, the mother is pictured as a woman of genuine faith. Apparently, Timothy’s father was not a believer, but God worked through his mother and his grandmother to give him a sound foundation. Is there anything more precious to a mother than genuine faith? Timothy, who would become the most dependable companion of the Apostle Paul, learned the Word of God as a young child on his mother’s knee.  She had genuine faith, not the wishy-washy easy-believism that so many in the church subscribe to today. Genuine faith impacts every person it touches.

Consider Susanna Wesley who was the youngest of twenty-five children and who gave birth to nineteen herself. Eleven of her children died in childhood. Her husband left her for a time, even serving extended sentences in debtor’s prison. O, how God used Susanna Wesley to give away her faith to her children! As each child turned five, she tutored them in the alphabet and then, beginning in Genesis, she taught them to read, word by word, from the Scriptures. “I wonder at your patience,” her husband Samuel once said. “You have told that child twenty times the same thing.”

“If I had satisfied myself by mentioning it only nineteen times,” Susanna Wesley answered, “I should have lost all my labor. It was the twentieth time that crowned it!”

I am thankful for the mother who raised me and for the wife and mother I love and live with. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who serve so faithfully in the high calling of motherhood. You are a gift that could never be repaid in this lifetime.

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Mark Fox May 9, 2021