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TRY TO IMAGINE THIS

I was looking for a particular word in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, and for some un-be-known reason, I looked at the introduction, and became aware of the fact that it took him 30 years to prepare this masterpiece… You read it right, 30 years!

Hold on, just as I was fumbling in my mind about the amount of work involved, I remembered that he did it without a computer.  I doubt that he had time for many of the things that we “work” into our schedules these days.  Think of the financial support that God must have laid on some of His treasured helpers who saw to his customary needs.

Many in this day and age have come up with new Versions in order to somewhat assist those of younger, or newer converts, in their reading of the Scriptures and understand what they read.

  I have often wondered exactly how Philip broke down the wording of Isaiah for the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:32-33)!  When you read the rest of the Chapter, do you get goose pimples as the Holy Spirit guides all involved on this roadway and others subsequently?

Let us read the portion that the Ethiopian was reading: “He was led as a sheep to slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He does not open His mouth.  In humiliation His judgment was taken away; who will relate His generation?  Of himself or of someone else?” (Isaiah 53)  “Please tell me! Of whom, does the prophet say this?  Then Philip opened his mouth and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.”

What followed was more than an eye opener; the eunuch not only understood that message, he follows up with questions on baptism and Philip baptizes him.

(The Baptists love this verse: “and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.”)

You know what?  The end of verse 39 says:  The eunuch “went on his way rejoicing!”  That should be enough to make any of us “go on our way rejoicing”.

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SUBSERVIENT

When John opens the story related to Jesus, naturally, He is intent on communicating the wonderful truth that Jesus is The Word, and The Word was with God, and The Word was God.  (John 1:1)

After presenting the uniqueness of Jesus being both God and man, he presents the beauty of His purpose, to redeem man who is totally corrupt, into a spiritual child of a sinless God.

When one reads the uniqueness of the virgin birth of Christ, you also discover that from a human stand-point, Jesus, and John the baptizer, were cousins.  Because of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, I cannot help but believe that somewhere along the way Jesus and John the Baptizer had social interaction.

When John began his ministry (John 1:19) I have to wonder what type of relationship and understanding they had of each other.  Of one thing we can be certain, both had to know where they fit into God’s plan.

John’s preaching and baptizing in Jordan is filled with condescension-“I am not the Christ, I am not Elijah, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”

The Pharisees asked John: “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah the Prophet?”

John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know.  It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”

On the next day John saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  This is he on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, I came baptizing in water’.”  John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him.  I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’  I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:21-34)

I passed the room of my Father-in-law late one evening and there kneeling by his bed I saw a 90 year old man finalizing the day with the Almighty!  One, saying in effect: I am merely your servant Lord!   And like John, he was!

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COMMON SENSE!

Even if you are prone to a negative view of the Scriptures, I have to believe that a person reading the 17th Chapter of Proverbs would find agreement with the many conclusions of the wise man, relating to common sense.

Verse 4 – “An evildoer listens to wicked lips; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.”

Verse 7 – “Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool, much less are lying lips to a prince.”

Verse 10 – “A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.”

Verse 12 – “Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly.”

Verse 13 – “He who returns evil for good, evil will not depart from his house.”

Verse 14 – “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.”

Verse 15 – “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.”

Verse 16 – “Why is there a price in the hand of a fool to buy wisdom, when he has no sense?”

Verse 17 – “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

There is ample advice for both – you and me!  We might refer to it as wisdom, it is also common sense.

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KINGDOM PREACHING

I am certain (in my thinking) that your pastor has showed the difference between the preaching of Jesus, and even that He sent his disciples to preach in the same manner, with what might be called “Kingdom Preaching”, prior to His immediate crucifixion.

This was in keeping with His presentation initially as King, and then as Savior.  Let us remember those Kingdom principles are also appropriate for any man who wants to be blessed and a blessing.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.

Rejoice and be glad, for you reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under feet by men,

You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;

Nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp

stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:1-16)

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SHE / THEY WERE SO EXCITED!

A friend and I usually get together once a week to talk about Scriptures, our families, and sometimes we go to some high-class diner, like Burger King, and eat while we yak on and on. 

The other morning we were about to leave when I spotted two elderly ladies sitting in another section of that classy diner.  I stopped to greet them, and as usual said, “Good morning ladies!  Have a blessed day!  ‘This is the day that the Lord hath made and I am going to rejoice and be glad in it’.” (Psalm 118:24)  He makes them and I enjoy every one of them!

Before I could say anything further one said, “Think about the Rapture!  At any moment we could be caught up in the air to meet the Lord”.  The other jumped into the conversation.  “I too believe that!  It might happen today!  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to meet our Savior?” 

We conversed on that for a few moments, than I noted to them that I was aware that they had a new pastor, and I will look forward to meeting him.  By the time I got out the door, I had left two happy saints inside and another two outside.

I might mention that I have used that little “springboard” time after time.  It works!  It opens doors to people that you do not normally get to speak with. I do not have to manipulate the conversation in my direction.

By the way, have a most blessed day in the Lord!   Look for peace; hope; joy; and whatever you feel your need to be.  Let go and Let GOD!

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TEN COMMANDMENTS

Most of you reading this title will immediately say: “I know all ten!  Why print them.  Follow me and you cannot help but notice the ten of the New Testament were not what you had expected.

I do not know who compiled the list originally, but blessing will be for us to follow the schedule suggested!  Quotes from King James Version)

 1)  “Repent ye and believe the gospel.”  (Mark 1:15)

 2)  “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.  (Matthew 6:33)           

  • “Take no thought of the morrow.”  ((Matthew 6:34)
  • “Lift up your eyes and look on the fields for they are white already to harvest.”   (John 4:35)
  • “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”   (Matthew 5:16) 
  • “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  (Galatians  6:2)
  • “A New commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you.”   (John 13:4)
  • “Ye tithe, this ought ye to have done.”  (Matthew 23:23)
  • “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”  (Matthew 28: 19-20)
  • “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.”   (Matthew 24:44)

A fresh look at our entrustment!

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KNEE-MAIL

Traffic was at a “crawl”; “the good old days” of driving up Grand Avenue with one lane in each direction without much by way of interruption, has long gone. 

This snail pace because of development all around us has become a gigantic problem that worsens each day.  Since boredom set in, I began reading all of the license plates, bumper stickers and window decals; one of them caught my eye: “God answers knee mail.”

I said to myself: “I wish I could have thought of something like that!”  Some people have a way of projecting a thought with clarity and challenge in just a few words.  This one seemed to incorporate an entire sermon into four words.

The mind traversed more than half a century when we were kneeling to pray beside old home-made benches in the Evangelical Church in Bermuda.  In those days, Prayer Meetings were conducted on our knees. 

Just as quickly, my mind went to an Evangelical United Brethren Church in Milton, PA in 1955.  I had gone there to preach.  When it came time for the “pastoral prayer” in Sunday Morning Worship, the entire congregation went to their knees to pray.  In another preaching engagement in a Pentecostal Assembly, I was asked to lead in prayer.  We all gathered at the front, on our knees, and prayed.  Each of these experiences left an indelible impression in my mind and heart.

Here I was on Grand Ave being made aware of the blessedness of bowing the knee before our Wonderful Lord.  True, the words were a play on e-mail, but they were coming through loud and clear… we need to, if possible, get down on our knees and do business with God.  Encompassed in that act is a demonstration of subservience to the Almighty.

I am oft reminded of the old deacon, addressing the young man being considered for pastor of their church.  The young man asked: “How big a man do you want?”, to which the deacon replied: “We want a man who, on his knees, can reach heaven.”

The bended knee is often repeated in Scripture.  In Philippians 2:9-10, we read: “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Wouldn’t it be more sensible to here and now bend the knee before the Almighty in humility rather than to be forced to do so in eternity future?

God answers KNEE-mail!

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MOSES’ DISCUSSION WITH GOD

I smile when I read some portions of Scripture.

You see, they tear into me, reminding this old boy of times when the Lord and I would get into a debate.  I always lost and should have known better.  Moses debated the Lord and lost.  I guess that to be my consolation.  Let’s visit their discussion in Exodus 3.

A reminder!  Moses was left in a basket of reeds as a result of Pharaoh’s decree to kill all Jewish babies.  Pharaoh’s daughter came to take a bath in that area, heard the baby’s cries, took him home and brought him up like an Egyptian.

Blood of an Israelite flowing through Moses veins, when he saw an Egyptian endeavoring to kill an Israelite, he killed the Egyptian, and naturally had to put on his running shoes!

While pasturing the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, he saw a burning bush, from which an angel of the Lord appeared.  Obviously, it was the Lord Himself!  Then we read: “The Lord said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings.  So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite.”

“Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them.  Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.”

Moses belittles himself for a lack of words, (v13) with fitness, (v14) with authority, (4:1) with power of speech, (4:10) and special adaptation. (v4:13)  God still uses men with all our weaknesses. 

Moses was so intent about the things that he lacked; he forgot that it was the Lord who was going to enable him.  Sometimes we have to be hit with a 2×4 or its equivalent.  Moses, like many of us, was forgetting that it was God who chooses to empower us for the assignment He sends us on, and that we forget also that He has spoken and He intends to enable us for His assignment.

Our reluctance to tackle assignments from God is simply because we look in the mirror, see ourselves, and are prone to the weaknesses as over against the Strength of Our Savior.

Like Moses, I cannot – He can!  Never forget – He delights in using His Servants to accomplish His assignments.  Let us repeat: “I can’t? He can!”

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THE FAMILY INHERITANCE

We read about and we hear about it constantly.  Someone dies and all of a sudden there is an eruption in the family about what a WILL says or does not say; sometimes it does not even exist.

What really is confusing is that some in the family says that it was believed to be entirely different and it must have been changed because of pressure; even mental deterioration may spring into the center of it.  What a mess!

That which catches my attention in Luke 12, where “someone in the crowd” was endeavoring to manipulate Jesus into disclosing his opinion about an inheritance!  First our Lord places the burden of such a responsibility in the hands of the one in control.  If there is a personal responsibility, it remains the decision of that individual.  If one feels he has been left nothing, do not let greed produce the quest to obtain part of the inheritance.  Remember, you had nothing and therefore you have lost nothing.

Jesus moves on to speak of the one who has great possessions.  Such an individual can become as greedy as the person who was requesting Jesus give His opinion on who is “Mr. Stingy”!

It is clearly apparent that the inheritor was probably the one who was the recipient of the inheritance… “I will tear down my barns and I will build bigger barns.”  Not only that, but “I will store all my grain and goods”.  The reason…  “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”

“But God said to him, ‘You fool!  This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have?’  So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Jesus goes on to say, “do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for what your body, as to what you will put on; for Life is more than food, and the body more than clothing;” He does refer to the birds who have no resources stacked away, but are out working for their meals daily. 

Jesus continued by illustration:  “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.  Do not even worry about what you will eat or drink, God knows your needs.”

A stinging rebuke!  “But seek His kingdom and these things will be added to you.  For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”

Quit worrying about an inheritance.  Read about our RICHES in Christ Jesus—so amplified in Ephesians!

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GOD USES UNUSUAL PEOPLE

Every so often you meet a person that you think to yourself, “My, what God could do with that person! 

He has such a personality, and his ability to communicate is beyond the normal; wow!”  You meet another who you are convinced: “What a “nice” individual!  However, I doubt that he or she will get far in life.”

Try reading Exodus 3:13, 14 “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?’”

“Then Moses said to God, ‘Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I shall say to them, the God of your fathers has sent me to you.’  Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’  ‘What shall I say to them?’  God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’; AND SAID, ‘Thus you shall to the sons of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.’”

As we read through Exodus we are made aware of numerous excuses that Moses used.  First he referred to his ability to speak. (v13)  We read of his fitness in verse 4 of Exodus.  There is also God’s reminder of his authority. (4:1 and following) Success lies in obedience, not our own strength.  Moses refers to his inability to speak in 4:10. (I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.)  Then God tells him: Go to Pharaoh in 9:13 and tell him: “Rise up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, Let My people go, that they may serve Me!’”

One might remember how Moses was saved from drowning in a “sea going bassinette”; he was brought up in Pharaoh’s household; he killed one of Pharaoh’s people, and he was assigned by God to lead the Hebrews back to the Promised Land!  He named his excuses to God only to be told “I will go with you.”

We all have limitations of which we are aware, but we must learn to obey the leading of the Lord.  I was young in the Lord when I heard someone say: “Me and God make a majority!”  The road maybe rough, and the excuses of which we are well aware may be many, “But me and God make a majority!”

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MAGNETIC FORCE

The man watched my frustration for a few moments and then disappeared.  I had dropped a screw in the rocks and could not find it, thus causing the frustration. 

(For those of you unfamiliar with it, we replace grass with decorative rock most of the time in Arizona.)  As I continued my search, he suddenly appeared with a large magnet on a string, hoping that our problem would be solved quickly.  It was!

He felt the necessity of explaining why he kept this magnet handy.  He was so tired of nails appearing suddenly in his yard.  The construction crews had dropped them when the house was being built.  Occasionally he went around trying to gather those nails that had surfaced.

A friend of mine is in the aluminum siding business.  The magnet was of no use to his crew because the magnet would not pick up the aluminum nails.  Someone else decided that I should have one and made a donation to that end. 

I carry it in the truck always.  I remember well the magnets that we took out of those little generators that were attached to our bicycles and, by applying them to a bicycle tire, they would produce electricity for the lamp on our cycles.

Over the years I have found myself endeavoring to utilize some “gimmick” or the other to get people to be born into God’s family.  Far too frequently, I have endeavored to take over the job of the Holy Spirit of God.  I have not been alone, for I have watched many manipulative procedures and psychological ploys to convince people to be saved, to give generously to God’s work, or a host of other goals to be achieved.

Two verses of Scripture have been a blessing to me of recent.  John 6:44: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” 

John 12:32: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”  A man or woman comes to Jesus for Salvation only when the Father, in and through the Holy Spirit, DRAWS him.

Along with other brothers and sisters in Christ, I have endeavored to make the gospel of Jesus as attractive as possible.  However, no matter how masterfully I make my presentation, the ultimate work of a person’s salvation is contingent on the Holy Spirit touching the heart and “drawing” the person to Himself.  The magnet is the magnetism of Calvary.  When Christ was lifted up on the cross, it became the catalyst to cause people to repent and embrace Him as Lord and Savior.  Like aluminum, all will not be drawn, but there are those whose hearts will be tenderized of God and will humbly bow before Him as Lord.  Are you one of those?  I trust so.

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VICTORIOUS NOT VICTIMS

The Book of Acts is filled with the victories that the disciples of Jesus experienced as they presented Christ to a basically Jewish audience. 

Though the going was rough, they were resting on the promises that Jesus had made concerning the follow up to His crucifixion, and then the resurrection and ascension.  While there may not be the violence of that hour, but it remains a stigma if a Jew converts to Christianity.  We must realize that selected vocabulary does not change the underlying resentments.   However, that is basically true of any religious conversion.  I would not go into the thinking of some of my friends toward my faith being placed in Christ. 

Understanding the message that Christ left with His disciples, 1:8 of Acts, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” And the subsequent speaking in languages that they had never used before shook all the folks that were present when these things happened.  

The overriding ministry of the Holy Spirit enabling such occurrences was sufficient to verify that what had been predicted was now taking place.

One of the most significant experiences was the understanding of what was written in other portions of Scripture: “Let His homestead be made desolate, and let no one dwell in it; and let another man take His office.”

Someone wrote: “Fill the cup with incense, and load the altar with odorous wood, but fire is still needed to send out fragrance – So the prayers, talents, genius and other gifts need fire from above, before they can achieve results.”

Once the Holy Spirit descended on the Day of Pentecost, (Acts 2) there was victory upon victory throughout the then known world.  Nothing could hinder His working in and through those believers. That is the reason for VICTORY upon VICTORY throughout the Book of Acts.  Some have called it THE ACTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

Does God want another display of His power?  I have to believe that the answer is YES!  Will it be identical?  Who knows!  I am certain He is not satisfied with our milk fed believers that give little evidence of a total dependence on Christ!

-Ted                   

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REDUCED CHRISTIANITY

I use those words with slight caution, for many folk with which I fellowship might think that I categorize them thusly!  I speak again of the levity, the laxity, which has filled the, so called Christianity, in this day and age.

There was assignment of that title at Antioch as the disciples were teaching about the resurrected Christ.  They were there for at least a year. (Acts 11:26)  It is interesting to note that they taught “considerable numbers”.  People are not always favorable to the teachings concerning Christ, because it places demands on them concerning their acceptance of Christ.  Having heard the teachings of Jesus, a person is bound by what they have heard.  Failure is rejection!

Currently we are faced with a generation of individuals who want an identification of being Christian, but it is on their terms.  We find more and more of these individuals avoiding a literal adherence to Scripture.  I have heard many of the arguments that hinge on being selective, meaning that they feel some things are outmoded and inappropriate for a modern day and age.  God recorded for us His desires, and less than total obedience to them is the assumption that one believes he knows more than God.

Did you ever make a list of the places where it is recorded that Barnabas was there and was teaching total adherence to the prophecies and doctrines of the Savior?  He was not a compromiser!  He was unbending in his adherence to what Christ had taught.  He obviously was a stalwart among the disciples and early believers.  He was the type that every pastor wants in his congregation.

Oh that God would give us men and women with the commitment that these early believers adhered to.  James was ordered killed by Herod (Acts 12:2) but Peter was delivered from prison.  Give up trying to figure out why God does things or allows them in the manner He does.  As has been said so often, “inscrutable” is the only acceptable definition.

I am certain that I am not alone in trying to understand the workings of the Lord!  At the same time I realize that listening to Him, and obeying Him, will lead to additional avenues of service and approval from Him.

May we bend and yield to what God wants from us, knowing ultimately that this is the only acceptable way of serving Him.  Remember He does not change His Word on “sound doctrine”.

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CLOSER HOME

Copyright Ted Cowen

I woke this morning, just before the dawn

The body felt better than did the previous morn

And so, preparing for the day that plainly lay ahead

I spoke with Jesus; He is the Living Bread.

After going through the normal preparations

I checked the headlines for sensations

Things had not changed much, since the night before

Democrats and Republicans were trying hard to score

I headed for some good old-fashioned grub,

Fixed myself a pot of coffee, not quite a tub.

Next came some pills to cure and stop the ills

At my age, I would not be running up the hills

And soon I found myself, thinking about today

My Father had created it, for work and also play

What would I do with the hours that lay ahead

I surely would not consider going back to bed.

Pondering the agenda, and thinking what must be done

I looked out the window and once again saw the sun.

The darkness had left; the welcomed dawn arrived,

It was time to get a going, that’s how things survived

Then it “dawned” on me, “With Christ I am secure!”

I AM ONE DAY CLOSER HOME THAN I EVER WAS BEFORE!

So my friend, before you head out to make your great display

Remember, this could be your very last, before the Judgment Day

You need Jesus as your Savior, to wash away your sin

Welcome Him into your heart; He’ll give you peace within.

When that is done, hope will prevail, you too will feel secure

For you will be One Day Closer Home than You Ever Were Before.

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BLESS GOD IN THE CONGREGATIONS

As one searches the Scriptures daily, so a verse of the Word seems to come alive.  Its contents seem to say, “You did not notice me when you last read me, but today it appears that you finally were impacted with a deep sense of appreciation.   What a magnificent application of loving rebuke!  How did I miss it previously?

My mind went to this attitude of Blessing God in the congregation.  In the “good old days”, we went to church to pray.  I recall “kneeling benches,” some with pillows, as the pastoral prayer was lifted to God.  I recall some churches where the folk all knelt before the altar at the front of the church, praying aloud and also some kneeling before benches or pews and lifting an Amen as the pastor shared the concerns before the Lord.

I have been concerned about prayer much of lately.  It appears that our churches have switched from prayer citadels to entertainment centers for Sunday and often for Saturday.  Often you see a lonely figure endeavoring to manipulate into a sanctuary, and because of the problems they have to ring a bell, give their name and state their purpose before admission is granted.  I wonder if that is permitted by any church anymore.

A large number of churches no longer have a prayer meeting, and we cannot blame it on Covid 19.  It happened long before there was a “plague” to justify our absence.  While some of us recall  a church with prayer warriors, kneeling on hardwood floors, it gradually yielded to work schedules, school schedules, both parents occupied with earning sufficient to keep up with the “Joneses”, and sad to say, ignoring the importance of prayer in our congregations.

What would happen if we had a box for praise and prayer items to be lifted before the Lord throughout our congregations?  I recognize it would have to be carefully worded, and “grouping” would eliminate many problems.  Suppose that we took our last name on A’s, B’s, or C’s on day one as our commitment for each day of the month.  Every person in the congregation would be involved in prayer and every person would be prayed for frequently throughout the month.  By the way, a phone call or e-mail would find out specifics for prayer!  Naturally, we should not be limited to this, and our prayer interest should increase.  Meanwhile, I have a group that prays for me and my ministry daily.  Please do not quit!

All of these ideas may help to “Bless God in the congregations, Even; the Lord!”
(Psalm 68:26)

-Ted

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LOTS OF SHOES

I studied her features, listened to her accent, and finally decided that I would have to ask: “And where did you come from originally?”  Her reply surprised me, because she didn’t resemble those I’ve known from the Philippine Islands.  She proceeded to explain that her family had moved there from Spain and Holland prior to her birth.  She began to explain many things about the Philippines and their culture.  It was an exciting time of learning.

Somewhere in the middle of the conversation, she mentioned the multiplied millions of dollars that had been stolen by Marcos.  I expressed my “indebtedness” to the Philippines for my heart surgeon.  Turning to the lighter side, I explained how I had to build shelves for a lady’s shoes that must have numbered close to those of Mrs. Marcos.  (Not quite…  Approximately 100 pairs.)  It was then that she opened a vista that I had never considered.

People knew that Mrs. Marcos loved shoes.  She purchased many from far and wide.  However, many of the shoes that she possessed were given to her as gifts.  This produced a problem.  Many of the people of the Philippines are known for their belief in voodoo.  Anything that had been handled by another, stood the possibility of having a curse placed upon it; that could then be cast upon the person who wore it.  This meant that because of Mrs. Marcos’ prominence, attacks might have been launched against her in this insidious form.  Many of her shoes were never worn and, even if she tried to give them away, people would not want to wear them for fear of an evil curse being applied.

Many are those that go through life with various types of fears attached.  Some will say they are not superstitious but will avoid cracks in a sidewalk; walk great distances to avoid a black cat crossing their path; almost have a heart attack if someone puts shoes on a table; avoid the number 13; and the list goes on.  Kurt Koch, in his book “The Devil’s Alphabet”, with no attempt to gather all of them, lists 47 different areas of the Occult and Superstition.  His excellent writing on “Between Christ and Satan” opened up Ephesians 6:10-20.  One cannot help but sense the battle arrayed: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 NASB)

We read the words of David: “and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands”. (1 Samuel 17:47)  This is as real today as the day it was written; we approach the elements of Satan and voodooism with confidence.  John writes in his Epistle: “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)  We need to read this entire Epistle to garner the truths concerning our not being given over to fear.  Claiming victory in the power of the blood of Jesus is the only method of dealing with such an enemy.

By the way… try this pair of shoes: “and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace”. (Ephesians 6:15 NASB)  That pair is better than a thousand pairs!

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RICHES

Having been brought up in a tight financial situation in World War 2, and following, there were times that I looked at the financially affluent, thinking that it would be wonderful to be in that situation.  However, as the years slipped by I began to realize that what I thought to be “wonderful” might never be mine.  Also, that many of those who possessed “riches” were lacking some of the things that we enjoyed to the maximum.  Exclusiveness was evident as were some of the snobs.

Thankfully, there were those who knew what it was to cross the barrier of riches and allow us all to be treated as equals.  Riches did little or nothing to spoil excellent relationships.

After becoming a Christian I began to study the Word of God, we began to even have better relationships.  Personally, I found it much easier and healthy to apply Scriptural principles in all relationships.

In my studies I quickly discovered that I was rich beyond my comprehension.  Overnight I realized that Romans 1:4 and following was revealing my wealth; that which God had provided.

“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?  But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”  What a contrast: His riches, kindness –tolerance-patience to a hard headed person until I came in repentance to Him.  Then, and only then, did I experience the realization of glory, and honor and immortality, eternal life.

We reach the eleventh verse, and there we discover something that not only benefits me, but to you who would be reveling in those riches, “there is no partiality with God.”  

Die a pauper, or a wealthy person!  God offers riches!

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MAPPING OUR COURSE

We left Sun City with every intention of returning about a month later.  We had in mind the basic route we would cover.  In fact, we did a print out of a map to give clear indication of our various destinations.  Things went well until… Have you ever used a map and discovered later that it was inaccurate?  I did!  The instructions said, “left”, but something in me said, “right”.  I went “left”, only to discover that I should have gone “right”.  It was disconcerting to discover that the map was wrong, but good to know that we discovered the inaccuracy shortly and were able to counteract our instructions.

Our friends had told us: “When you are an hour or so from our house, call and with our instructions, you will be able to cut 20 minutes off of your travel time.”  I listened and that rural setting became quite simple, even with my misgivings.

A gentleman once called me to correct a problem he had encountered.  After studying the maps extensively, I called him back and said: “Your street is not on any of my maps.”  He gave me directions and when I arrived at his home, his greeting was something like this: “You are right!  My street does not exist according to the area maps.”  I inserted it into my maps.

In our travels this trip, my wife and I found ourselves changing our minds frequently about where we would go next.  It was fun, but at times, confusing.  However, in most cases, we were able to avoid “unexpected side tours”.

Most of us like to plan our lives a long way in advance.  We endeavor to “plot our course” and like to feel that, when we pursue our plans, at the end of life things will be as we anticipated.  However, there are always interruptions of one type or another.  My initial plans after finishing College were to enter the pastorate to gain experience that would enable me to become an evangelist.  God had other plans!  Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, we found ourselves in multiple areas of service that we never contemplated.  Our current ministry developed in much the same manner.  Always, we have been able to look back and see God mapping our course in contrast to our jumping on some bandwagon and getting detours that meant the map was incorrect or that we were moving in a self- centered direction.

All of this is the result of reflecting on some precious portions of God’s Word…

“…for Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.” (Psalm 31:3)  “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel (guide) you with My eye upon you.” (Psalm 32:8)  “…He will guide us until death.”  (Psalm 48:14)  That’s a precious reality!

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Corinthian Catastrophe

When a congregation has at least fourteen major problems, you can be certain that there are other problems “hidden” in a closet that have not been disclosed.  Given the ways disgruntled individuals begin digging in dirt and make mountains out of molehills, you can believe that even the smallest disagreement can be maximized.

Much is being said about spiritual problems at Corinth, and they had not made an effort to correct them, or they had decided that they had a solidified opinion that was in need of attention, even if it was actually trivial.

The Apostle issues a challenge that is definitely in keeping with the way that God would have us deal with any issue that leads to disagreement or argumentative brothers. Naturally, the apostle reminds them of the source for solving the problem.  First, let us consider if there is justification for the item to be discussed.  Perhaps those pushing the problem may be having their own problems, and love and understanding may be a solution without others being considered.

The next item of thought should be to search the Scriptures together.  If the problem has a direct answer, deal with it accordingly.  Allow those involved to share why it needs attention, and which portions of Scripture are applicable.

After following Biblical principles, as was the significant outline presented in Matthew 18 which leads on to FORGIVENESS, be sure to demonstrate forgiveness.  After all, believers are going to spend eternity together.  Would it not be ridiculous to have the Lord say: “I forgave both of you and you still have not forgiven each the other.”  Forgiveness as depicted clearly in Scripture should not be conditional on the “I forgave you, now it is your turn!”  Remember: “As He forgave you!!!”

In 1 Corinthians 2, in particular, we have much said about the Holy Spirit’s leadership in contrast to the worldly way of forgiveness.  A Christian following the principles of Christ-likeness as outlined in this portion of the Word of God allows The Holy Spirit to direct his activity as over against the natural (unregenerate) man.

A reminder can be beneficial to all of us: “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:9)  If agreeable to all of us, let us be punctilious!

 -Ted   

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COINCIDENTAL

My friend Jerry is an interesting character that I met at a prayer meeting when Patsy and I moved to Arizona.  We get together weekly just to fellowship and talk about the Scriptures.

If I share with Jerry something special of the Lord’s working, he will usually say in a very sagacious manner, “Coincidental!”  He knows, and I know that the sarcastic tone is actually an “Isn’t it amazing way to see how God works!”  Sometimes I will reference an individual to some things that have transpired, (In the Scriptures) and I will say “Would you explain this to me?”  After they have worn out the word “coincidental” they realize that they have no explanation of how it happened.

Try explaining the ten plagues that led to Israel being released from Egypt. (Exodus 7 thru Exodus 11)  Give me an explanation for 40 years of travel in the wilderness and God’s provision of food and water all along the way.   What is the explanation for Daniel and his three friends in the fiery furnace? (Daniel 3)  There are hundreds of prophecies concerning Jesus that were fulfilled, how possible?  There are many other incidents that cannot be explained from a human standpoint, save for the fact that God intervened! 

When Jesus was here upon this earth, He healed many, He walked on water, and He fed thousands from miniscule provisions of bread or fish, picking up fragments.  When attempting to throw Jesus over a cliff, He walked through their midst.  As John wrote in chapter 20:31, “But these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”

What is sometimes explained as “coincidence” is actually the intervention of God and no less.  He is ruling in a situation to make us more aware of His activity and desire to have us more alert to our needed dependence on Him.  Our inabilities are quite obvious, and only His ability, superiority, His love and compassion, brought that “coincidence” to a conclusion.

The intervention of the Almighty is the only acceptable explanation!

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IT WILL BE WORTH IT ALL

The song-writer said:

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,
          Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ;
One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,
          So bravely run the race till we see Christ.

By, Esther Kerr Rusthoi, © 1941 by New Spring (ASCAP) (admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.)

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GOD HAS SPOKEN

The Book of Hebrews is particularly written to Hebrews, yet it unfolds truths that are equally important for every Christian.  There are always those who like to argue concerning authorship, or some portion of its contents.  However, as we read its contents and interpret them in light of the other books of the Bible, we see a harmony that begins in Genesis and enfolds, in a most logical and interpretive manner, all the way to Revelation.  The reason behind this is because of what we read in Genesis 1:1… “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son…”

The gradual unfolding of God’s plan for the ages was given by God to the “fathers in the prophets and as stated “in many ways”.  The authority contained in the Holy Scriptures did not come from man’s idea; they originated in and from God. Thus, we see the cohesiveness through all sixty six books.  Think of approximately forty different authors over 500 years and yet we have ONE BOOK.  Jesus Himself confirmed its authority: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.” (John 5:39)

There are no more authoritative words than those of the Scriptures! God gave them to reliable men, prophets.  As stated, He then gave them to us through His Son, Jesus: “He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.  When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.” (Hebrews 1:3, 4)

HE was God incarnate!  His WORD is final!

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MORE REPAIRS

Almost twenty ago I entered the hospital with “chest pains”.  Eleven days later, because of multiplied complications, I came home.  The old “ticker” had problems because the arteries around it were “clogged”.  There was need for a quadruple bypass.  Such problems, or their solutions, are quite common these days.

Joining the “zipper club” is no fun.  Neither is it the worst thing in the world… I am still alive and not pushing up daisies.  Being above ground is really not bad at all.  I have to admit that I contemplate the moment when I shall see my Savior face to face, but I am not pushing Him.  Life is enjoyable but the afterlife I look to be even more enjoyable.

A few years later, I was eating breakfast and noticed that familiar pain of the past.  I told my wife I was going to have a check up at the hospital which is only a few minutes from our home.  Once there, the routine went into effect… cardiograms, x-rays, echogram, angiogram and finally a “TAXUS Stent”.  Twenty eight hours later I was home, ready to get in high gear with anything that weighs less than ten pounds.

All of this reminded me that multitudes of people have heart problems of a spiritual nature that must be cared for.  The Bible describes the heart as the center of a person’s inner life.  It is the person himself.  While the Scriptures may refer to a person’s personality, his desires, his feelings or his character, it also incorporates his spirit, his soul, and his mind.

In his Concise Bible Dictionary, Don Fleming notes: “The heart is what is sometimes called the inner man; and is the source of all the wrong that a person does (Proverbs 6:14, 18; Jeremiah 17:9; Mark 7:21-23; Romans 1:24-25; Ephesians 4:18).  Therefore, the heart must be cleansed to bring forgiveness; or, to use another picture, it must be re-created to bring new spiritual life.  Only God can bring about that cleansing or re-creation” (Psalm 51:10; Ezekiel 36:26; Acts 8:21-22; Hebrews 10:22).

One needs more than a by-pass or a Stent; he needs the redemptive quality of the blood of Jesus applied to his sin-sick heart.  He needs a life transformed, a heart repaired.  It is affected through the born-again experience. (John 3:3, 5)  It comes when one cries out to God for cleansing through the Redeemer of mankind… Jesus.  There is no other way for entrance into the kingdom of Heaven.  “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18)

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GIVING THANKS

The old farmer, visiting a friend, noted that no one gave thanks before the meal. He could not resist his “needed” rebuke: “The only thing around our home that does not give thanks before a meal is the “hogs”.  I am certain I would have been a little more gracious than that, like:  “May I have the privilege of thanking the Lord for your hospitality and food?”

We all should review the 107th Psalm; it reminds us of the things for which we might thank the Lord: “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His loving kindness is everlasting.  Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary and gathered from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.”

People can forget to offer THANKS because over time we all forget the benefits of our “location”.  We grumble if it is too cold and grumble if it is too hot.  We moan and complain if it snows or rains or the humidity is too high or it is too dry.  The children of Israel did that and even moaned and groaned because they had to eat too much of the same food for too long.  They did not enjoy the wilderness; they wanted “city life”.  When God provided it, ere long they did not appreciate that either.

What does it take to make us “satisfied”?  If you watch further in Psalm 107 you will note that God filled the hungry and thirsty soul but they remained unsatisfied.  Some were “Prisoners in misery and chains” (v10) which led to rebellion against the words of God. (v11)

When we complain, spurn the counsel of the Most High, (v11) it was then that they finally cried out to the Lord who saved them out of all their trouble.  Here again we receive instruction from God thru the Psalmist:  “Let them give thanks to the Lord for His loving kindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men!  For He has shattered gates of bronze and cut bars of iron asunder.” (v16)

Still they allowed themselves to complain.  But they are reminded in this song:  “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them out of the distresses.  He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.  Let them give thanks to the Lord for His loving kindness, and His wonders to the sons of men!” (v19-21)

Again we read: “Let them give thanks to the Lord for His loving-kindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men! (21)

What a Psalm!   Let us quit complaining and view the blessings that God has extended to us!

GIVE THANKS!

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DECEPTION

Daily… that’s right, I said daily, we have to deal with a word that appears in the Bible in its various forms, more than one hundred forty-seven times.  It is not one of the first words that we learn, but what it represents is learned at a very early age; once learned and refined in our thinking we endeavor to utilize it to maximum to accomplish our “goals”, even though they may be in opposition to the truth.

Trying to keep abreast of the latest NEWS and determine what is accurate, an opinion, or an outright lie, dignified by some of our opinions or conclusions or even our goals in life, legitimate or illegitimate is not easy.  A large part of that determination is based upon our relationship to God and His Word, the Holy Scriptures.

Think with me!  God had hardly created man and woman when the devil tried, successfully, to thwart their walk with the Lord.  “And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived fell into transgression.” (1 Timothy 2:14; the details are found in Genesis 3)

Those who play with the English language to accomplish their goals are deceptive.   There are warnings in regard to this.  Galatians 6:7, 8 is a good illustration.  “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

The far reaching effects of our pilgrimage journey down here, is beyond comprehension.  It involves others.  Duplicity discovered will undoubtedly create a web of entanglement.  One sees another get away with deceit and is encouraged to attempt the same because it seems to them that it is the only way to become top dog in the pack.  Without Christ as the anchor of the soul and His way as the only way one can build for eternity, deception can appear legitimate. 

Let us guard against deception and speak only the truth!  There could be no greater compliment to you or me at the end of life’s journey, than the words of others: “He was honest!   He was truthful!  He endeavored to glorify God in all matters of life!

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THE ROCK

When my father was in the middle age bracket, I recall him often saying: “I will never leave “The Rock”; that simply meant that he would never leave Bermuda to go any other place.  Bermudians often referred to Bermuda as “The Rock”!  Numerous events occurred that caused him to have to change his opinion, and he left “The Rock” on numerous occasions.

The average person will have a “Rock” at some juncture of their life, be it an individual, a place, an experience, or even as a fellow I met years ago who had rocks from places he had visited.

The Psalmist wrote the sixty first Psalm for the choir director; on a stringed instrument.  He probably wrote it with the idea that it would carry a very triumphant message and become well known as a result of its content and musical sing ability.  I often wonder about those songs, hymns of the past, that were lost for one reason or another.

There is such a fantastic message in this Psalm.  Remember how our Savior told the parable of the house on the sand, and the house built upon the rock?  Early in my childhood I was told about the necessity of building on a solid rock.  We have developed all types of foundations that allow us to build on all types of surfaces.  However, nothing equals building on rock!

In referring to the “rock” in Psalm 61, there is the solid base of confidence that is the psalmists, and ours, that we are on “solid” ground: our refuge, our tower of strength, Your tent, Your wings.   He follows that with “Selah!” Think on this!

Another word exudes the confidence of the Psalmist: “inheritance” of those who fear the NAME of the Lord.  It does not stop there: “he will abide before God forever.  And for a final thought: “So I will sing praise to Your name forever, that I may pay my vows day by day.”

Note: It is not Saturday or Sunday, but “day by day”.

What a ROCK!

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SHEPHERD OF GRACE

Copyright by Ted Cowen


In tenderness the Shepherd sought

This sheep that’d gone astray

He followed in loves pursuit

Knowing I had lost my way

Quietly he whispered

Child, let’s head on to My home

I’ll forgive your sin, and save your soul

Thru My GRACE I will make you whole.


I listened to that voice that day

As He spoke in tender tone

Welcome to the sheepfold

From this day, you’ll never walk alone

You’ll hear my voice

My presence is your guarantee

You are my child, you’re mine by choice

Forevermore you can rejoice.


He laid down His life for me

He did it at Calvary

Forgiven of sin I was told

Forever I rest in His fold


I walk now on the mountains

In the valleys, o’er the plains

I walk now hand in hand with Jesus

He comforts in the midst of pains

I have no needs

That He will not meet

In this journey through my strife

Jesus is my Shepherd; Jesus is my Life.

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GENERATION TO GENERATION

One of the greatest entrustments that one will encounter, yet we see sadly lacking for multiplied reasons, the greatest being the failure to communicate Biblical truths to our children.  Reading the fourth verse of Psalm 145 should make us rethink our obligations and their fulfillment.

The Psalmist impresses upon our thinking when he says: “Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable”. (v3) He follows this with the instruction to the next generation in verse 4, and tells us to declare Your mighty acts.

We have all been confronted with the busyness of our family in various phases of their growing to maturity, and our maturing with them.  At times we feel frustrated, and at times we are jubilant.  Trying to balance our thinking with theirs is a challenge to both of us.  Accordingly, the Psalmist gives us a tip when he says “Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable.” (v3)  I must adapt to what God says in His WORD, and applying it graciously.  Parents are not appointed “dictators”.  They will quickly discover our weaknesses just as we theirs.  We are to focus on the greatness of God. 

The content of this Psalm is loaded with suggestions.  The greatness of God is unsearchable (v3);  declaration of His mighty acts (v4); the splendor of His majesty, and His works, along with His acts (v6); His greatness as well His abundant kindness (v6,7);  His righteousness (v7); His gracious and merciful, slow to anger and great in loving kindness (v8); He is good, His mercies over all His works (v9); all godly shall bless God (v10);  His glory and Kingdom that will last forever (v13);  He raises up all who are bowed down (v14); and I continue to quote of what we might pass on to our generation…

“The eyes of all look to YOU, and You give them their food in due time.  You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.  The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds.  The Lord is near to all who call upon Him; to all who call upon Him in truth.  He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them.  The Lord keeps all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy.  My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.”  (Psalm 145)

THINK ON THESE THINGS!

-Ted

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A DRUNKEN STUPOR

My uncle got rich on it… he sold it to others.  I lived with an alcoholic; therefore I am alarmed by those who try to convince me that there is nothing wrong with alcohol consumption.  I have counseled couples who have abandoned the deep love they had for each other because they refused to abandon the bottled up poison.  I have been threatened with guns, knives and even forks by some who threatened to beat me up, to pulverize me, along with many other instruments.  All of those threats were taken over by our wonderful Lord… to HIM be the praise!

One of the thickest files in my file cabinet is that of Alcohol!  After all, something that is referred to over 627 times in Scripture warrants many opinions.  I have tried to be gracious in responding to the various arguments as to which word was used and how and why, but I have not always been as gracious as I should have been.  I have even quoted my mother on occasion – “Empty kettles make a lot of noise!” Another of her favorites was: “If it is doubtful, it is dirty!”

I must inject a short note about my friend who ran a Mission for the needy.  One day one of the men came running in and said: “There is a guy out there with a knife, and he has another guy trapped in the alley, and is threatening to kill him.  Jack, a short chunky guy who probably could have rolled faster than running… bolted down the Alley, confronted the man and said: “In the Name of Jesus Christ, give me that knife!”  In that moment the “drunk” turned and passed Jack the knife, who immediately said: “Thank you sir!”  Looking up to Heaven and, just as quickly said: “And thank you Lord!”

Alcohol can make people attempt the most ridiculous things; the one sings and the other fights.  In most cases they do not want to talk about it later.  The Apostle said: “And do not be drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:18-19).

This has been only two verses of Scripture, but there are hundreds more that show God’s displeasure.

-Ted

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LOVE

I take the liberty of quoting 1 Corinthians 13… Love is both a gift and a grace: “If I speak with the tongues of man and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,

Does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,

Does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away, 

For we know in part and we prophesy in part;

But when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.

When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

(Quoted N.A.S.B. , 1 Corinthians 13 in its entirety.)

Love is not transitory!

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MOMENTARY QUESTIONS

The strongest of the saints can allow terror to strike their heart.  It occurs from the strangest of experiences and leads to despondency.  When a man, a friend, said he had experienced depression, and he found it hard that some Christians can make light, and even utter rash statements… he quietly said, “they do not know what they are talking about.  I have hit bottom, and have been unable to get out of despondency though I read the Word, prayed, along with some other antics to rise above it for months.”

He related how there were moments when he thought about taking his life, even though his business was doing fine.  His wife remained loyal and patient, and became the staying force as the battle ensued.

The Godly David hit bottom according to 1 Samuel 27.  He had lost his ability to rise above the constant assaults of Saul.  We read in 1 Samuel 27: 1, “Then David said to himself, ‘Now I will perish one day by the hand of Saul.  There is nothing better for me than to escape into the land of the Philistines.  Saul then will despair of searching for me anymore in all the territory of Israel and I will escape from his hand’.”

Some parts of David’s brain were functioning quite clearly, as he thought!  He left, taking 600 men, crossed over to Gath, and all of them evidently were quite comfortable with their wives joining them.  Then we read, just as David thought; Saul no longer searched for him.  Despondency is usually accompanied with all types of ideas, some good, and some “good for nothing”!

During those sixteen months he felt that he could not “be himself” and ended up attacking other groups.  His actions were to “leave non alive”, lest they should relate his activities to the folk at Gath.  Gradually information leaked out and then no one trusted him.  Oh the pitfalls when one “hits bottom”.  When he should have been leaning on the Lord, he was allowing his tortured mind to reach out in a manipulative manner.

When we go through the pond of despair, it is not the time that we think clearly.  In fact we are probably at our weakest and make the worst decisions.  Fortunately, we live in an era where professionals can help us meander through such situations.

I make the suggestion of learning to lean on Jesus.  Whether you recognize what is happening or not, Read the Scriptures! (In particular the Psalms)  Pray!  Do not try to be sophisticated; just talk heart to heart with God.  Do not try to manipulate your thinking or HIS!  He is preparing you for, as yet, something that is beyond your imagination.  “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes. Wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)

-Ted

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DEATH, IT’S PROSPECT

Isn’t it looked upon, especially in our younger years, as a morbid time?  We lose someone we loved, admired, and in a moment they were gone.  We felt as though we had been robbed; our jewel of great worth has been dumped underground and all that I have left are memories.  Even those memories will drift into obscurity, or close to it.  I try at that moment to somehow, imbed and tuck them into a section of my brain.

During the last two weeks, a lady that I attended grade School with, and her son, were both welcomed into the presence of the Savior.  On my last trip to Bermuda I spent a few minutes on several occasions with a guy that I knew from days prior to his Salvation; David reminded me that he was now 90 years of age.  It was not too long after that, the Lord called him home.   Three in the same family, all in short order.  Many precious memories!

While I think of this extended family with which I spent many hours, I am regretful that I could not have been there, but the last has not been written or thought upon concerning their service for the Savior.

I have thought of the courage with which they have fought many difficulties.  The solid faith through all of their troublesome times!  The Apostle reminded the believers at Corinth in chapter 1:1 “I preached… you received… you stand!”

I can hear in faith, the echoes of a host of friends and relatives rejoicing… “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.   For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.  The last enemy that will be abolished is death.”  Hallelujah!  (1 Corinthians 15:19, 22, 26)

Death is not defeat for us in Christ; it is victory; it is a prospect!

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A LAMP

On one of my trips to Bermuda, I decided to visit the old Lighthouse where my father had been a keeper for many years, and other members of our extended family had also been keepers at other periods.

I climbed the 185 steps with my good friend Joel, and we shared many stories as we moved inside initially, and then went out on the veranda and shared more experiences as we viewed the island.  One has an unhindered view from that “perch”, 145 feet in the air.  You can see approximately two thirds of the island from that viewpoint.  My Father could tell a story and keep tourists enamored much longer then they had intended to stay up there.

When we got back down, the keeper that day said “Ted!  I have something special for you.”  He handed me a post-card that a photographer had taken one night.  The lens for the light weighed almost two tons, and you can turn it with one finger. The photographer had established his camera in a position that enabled him to get all five beams from the light in one shot.  It was magnificent!  Almost impossible!

As I was reading from Mark 4, I found myself drifting back to the old home, joined at the bottom of the lighthouse.  I have been back frequently, and always my mind is drifting in and out of many memories.

I should mention that Mark obviously did not write long dissertations.  He was very pointed.  His first observation is clear, that is, you do not put it under a bed or in a basket.  It is to give light, and that is why it is to be put on a lamp stand.

There is the realization that it is to “give light”.  You do not put it in a hiding place; rather you put it where everything within its potential range can be illuminated.  That was a pleasure to make – a standing lamp!

Jesus, at one point in this portion of Scripture reminds them / and us, that we should, make use of every opportunity to be a beacon of hope to a world in need of the Savior.  As the kids sing so often, “Let your light shine”; let your light shine forth for Jesus!

A reminder to all of us…  All shall be exposed in eternity future… Does it challenge us?

-Ted

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A PRODIGAL PEOPLE

At the height of his prophesying, Hosea is told to take a wife of harlotry and then she would bear children.  The word of the Lord came to Hosea, and explained that his ministry to Israel would present a clear picture to her of God’s assessment of her conduct.  In His advice to Israel, his family was not the most grandiose for a display of how God saw them in the conduct of worldliness, but it was vivid.

The children were instructed to be called by names conducive to their own attitudes.  All the while, Hosea, whose name means “God is help” or another meaning is “Salvation”, was hammering home the message that had come to him.  Israel would be punished in due time, but while she was living like a prodigal, she
would constantly be reminded, “You are not My people,” there would be said to them, “You are the sons of the living God.”

People judge us by our conduct and said to say, they viciously throw around accusations that may have justified conclusions.

When she has deeply imbedded her activity as an adulterous woman, and cannot find satisfaction, and even seeks out those who no longer seek her trade, (to no avail) she says “I will go back to my first husband.  For it was better for me than now.”

Remembering that this is a figurative presentation, you can hear the words that traverse her brain.  “For she does not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the new wine and the oil, and lavished on her silver and gold which they used for Baal.  Therefore, I will take back my grain at harvest time and My new wine in its season.  I will also take away My wool and My flax given to cover her nakedness.  And then I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one will rescue her out of my hand.  I will also put an end to all her gaiety, He feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths and all her festal assemblies.  I will destroy her vines and fig trees, of which she said, ‘These are my wages which my lovers have given me.’   I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field will devour them.  I will punish her for days of the Baals.  And direct their desire toward their iniquity.  And it will be like people, like priest; so I will punish them for their ways and repay them for their deeds.  They will eat, but not have enough.  They will play the harlot, but not increase, because they have stopped giving heed to the Lord.”

As I said earlier, the picture has more content in the verses that follow.  Hopefully, you will take time to view the remaining portion in your Bible.  (Hosea 3 +)

God will call attention to all of our past when we see Him in all of His GLORY!  He has promised that confessed sin has been dealt with in Christ.  He will reward us for acts performed for His Praise.  Our hearts will be filled with Adoration!

-Ted

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YOU, A SINNER; JESUS CHRIST, A SAVIOR

Man has sinned… Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

We are guilty before God… Romans 3:9, “There is none righteous, not even one.  There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God;”

“And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.” (Romans 2:2)

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”  (Romans 1:18)

God condemns, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”.  (Romans 8:1)

Death… “For the wages of sin is death, but the free of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Our Lord, our Savior, JESUS, bridged the gap between sin and salvation, between condemnation and deliverance, between life and death.  He offers that salvation to those who truly believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  It is a belief that transfers a person’s sin to our representative, Jesus, and follows HIM!

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GOD FORBID IT, LORD!

Matthew has presented Christ as the Son of David up to this point; in Matthew 16:21 ,he presents Him as the Son of Abraham, the one to be offered in sacrifice!  There is a sharp division as He responds to Peter, who takes Him aside and says, “God forbid it Lord!  This shall never happen to You!” (16:22)

Remember, at the outset of His ministry Jesus had chosen the twelve disciples, and during the early stages He sent them forth to present the message of the Kingdom.  We see now a gradual, but decisive twist, as He is presented as the sacrificial offering for the sin of the world.

As usual, Peter opens his mouth before the other disciples.  He is determined to stand with Jesus, even if it means death… “This shall never happen to you”.  He did so again when they arrested Jesus, taking a sword and surgically removing from an ear those endeavoring to arrest Christ.

Jesus uses very strong words to Peter: “Get behind me Satan!  You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”  Two things stand out… “Satan” and “man’s”!  Some sin stems from Satan directly, whereas others come from the heart of depraved humans.  Satan loves to use man to show his obstinacy toward God.  He did it in the Garden of Eden, and he continues to practice it to this very hour.

Just because we have chosen Christ as our Lord and Savior, and have begun to follow His call to service, it does not indicate that Satan will walk away in defeat.  His deviancy manifests itself daily.  We need to call on His strength in every situation for victory.  As you read further in this passage we read to this effect!

Jesus said: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses life for My sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”  MEDITATE! (Matthew 16:24-26)

-Ted

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OH! WHAT A NAME!

I wish you could have met my friend Jack.  He was a hard-drinking, cigar-smoking / chewing laundryman; that is, before he became a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.  In his own words, “I should have owned one of the railroad cars for the tickets I bought sending my wife back home to her parents.”

He was gloriously saved and studied for the ministry with me in New Jersey.  He had a burden for men of the “streets”… men you dared not call “bums” in his presence.  “They are men for whom Christ died.”  He devoted his life to reaching these men for Jesus Christ.

Jack made my 5’2″ wife feel tall.  It was faster to go over him than around him.  Now that you can picture the stature of Jack, I will relate the following true story.

One day, someone ran into the Gospel Mission to tell Jack that a man was being held at knife point by another man in the dead-end alley out back.  Jack ran to the alley, although he could have made better time rolling.  Without hesitancy he walked directly to the man with the knife, put out his hand and said: “In the Name of Jesus Christ, give me that knife.”  The man, without question or hesitancy turned and passed Jack the knife.  Jack said: “Thank you!”  As he turned from the men, he stopped, looked up to heaven and said: “And thank you Lord.”

The Name of Jesus!  The Name to which all men will ultimately bow, the Name that has not lost its power; The Name that allows us to storm the portals of Heaven and receive answers from the very Throne of God. (Philippians 2:10, 11)  “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God, the Father.”  Jean Perry wrote: “That beautiful name, that beautiful name, From sin has power to free us!  That beautiful name, that wonderful name, That matchless name is Jesus!”

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THE HEAT IS ON

As I write this, it is simply because my garage is too hot to work in…117 Degrees.  Even though while out there with a couple of fans running, one of them being a “swamp cooler”. That is how we refer to these machines where the wind goes across a filter of water.  When the humidity is high, it is equal to a sweat box.  When it is down to 12 percent, as it is today, it is supposed to be helpful. 

I have had a few “smart-aleck” friends tell me that they are preparing themselves for the future, where they will spend eternity.  It is easy enough to make light of a Scriptural teaching when one wants to blindly or lightly make fun of a real place, to which they are heading, or of a Savior who they refuse to be subject to in this life.  Heaven and Hell are real places, just as sure as the period at the end of this sentence.

I quote a composite of what Don Fleming said: “Heaven is the dwelling place not only of God, but also of the angelic beings who worship Him.” (Neh. 9:6; Matthew 18:10, 28:2; Mark 13:32; Luke 2:15)  Jesus Christ came from Heaven (John 3:31 6:38) returned to Heaven after His death and resurrection (Acts 1:11; Ephesians 1:20), at present appears in Heaven on behalf of His people (Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 8:1; 9:24) and will one day return from heaven to save His people and judge His enemies (Acts 1:ll; 1 Thess. 4:16,17; 2 Thess. 1:7-9).

According to the New Testament, another composite by Fleming, “the punishment of hell (gehenna) is one of eternal torment.”  It is likened to eternal burning (Matthew 13:42; 18:8, 9; Revelation 20:10, eternal darkness (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 2 Peter 3:7-10), eternal destruction (Matt. 7:13; Phil. 1:28; 2 Peter 3:7, 10) and eternal separation from God and His blessing (2 1Thess. 1:9).

According to Scripture ones eternal destiny depends completely on whether we accept the person of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Intercessor, or not.  There is no in-between.  I have to believe Him and serve Him.  Eternity future is dependent on what I do mentally, emotionally and obediently toward His sacrifice on my behalf at CALVARY!

Give serious thought to His claim, His perfect sacrifice as our representative on Calvary.   “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12,1 3)

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BENDING, BUT NOT BROKEN

As children during World War 2, we all had to learn to do without, or substitute.  I assure you that it was a challenge.  Often our substitutes did not hold up to our expectations, and you ended up with a substitution for the substitute.

One of our favorite substitutes was a hefty oleander branch for our bow, and for arrows we secured some straight growths down by the pond.  They did not work as well as Robin Hood and his merry men, but they did provide lots of enjoyment until the oleander dried out and cracked.

I am certain that many of you have discovered such things.  One of the things that are troublesome to every Christian is to bend. Bending to others, only to end up feeling that you are being used, and there is not any intention of that person to show an effort to follow the principles of Scripture.

I encountered someone along that line.  After visit upon visit to assist him, I was aggravated and told him if he called me again when he was drunk, I was going to give him a kick in the rear end.  He called!  As I entered his home he reached to take my hand.  I took his, pulled his hand and kicked him solidly.  As he gathered himself from the fireplace he said: “You did what you said you would!”  I did not get the joy of leading him to Christ that day, but he later invited Christ to be his Savior and Lord, serving Him until his death.

I certainly would not endorse such efforts.  I had lost my cool momentarily, but my “big mouth” placed me in a difficult place where pride was dominant.  After that we enjoyed precious experiences together.

Paul had been piling doctrine upon the believers at Rome in the opening chapters of Romans.  From Romans 12 on, he deals with Christian Character, reminding them that our bodies are to be spiritual sacrifices to God.(12:1)  In relationship to other members of the Lord Jesus, they are not the only “gifted” individual in the body; God has placed you there one by one, with a gift that should be exercised to glorify HIM.  Sometimes it may be identical to another’s, and sometimes it may be a single gift within the assembly.  Let it be used in a manner that others will identify it and not be abused in any way. (12:5-9)

Often in an assembly there are those who “ruffle feathers” constantly.  They may also be doing things within the public realm that needs attention by the leadership. You cannot overlook such activity!  Explain to the brother what is offensive and why.  Next, become his/her prayer partner and approach together the problem, determined to take nothing less than a solution!  Be humble and don’t grumble!  (12-21)

The warnings that follow are indicative of actions that bespeak one’s ongoing relationship to the Lord.  (What about our governors, other members, etc. allows us all to be in attendance to ourselves as well as others?)  Most importantly, I must remember: “whatever is not of faith is sin.” (13-23)

Paul loses no time in telling us that we are not to let our feelings surmount our responsibilities.  In all things, because of who we are in Christ “be flexible” or you will dry up and crack… useless!

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OVERSIZE LOAD

We have all experienced seeing a monstrosity moving along the highway with that enormous sign attached: OVERSIZE LOAD.  We probably were made aware of its presence by another vehicle that carried the same sign attached.

Maybe I should have a sign like that on our truck.  It has helper springs and air-shocks and is usually overloaded.  I have little idea as to its total weight, but I know that its contents exceed the norm.

Watching young people heading for school each day with their backpacks, we want to strap on them a sign, OVERSIZE LOAD.  Then comes the flights we make on the airplane and we ask ourselves, “Did anyone check the amount this guy is carrying on?”  And on and on it goes.

Having been in pastoral work for more than fifty+ years, I have observed people carrying oversized loads far too frequently.  In spite of the fact that God says: “Cast your burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken”, (NASB) there is the grave tendency to gather as much as possible on our shoulders and prove we can handle it.

Then on the other side of the coin, at times we are prone to think that our load is unbearable.  We get hit with a sequence of events — many created by our own doing, that make us wonder if we can take it any longer.  There is the build up and subsequent burdens of mental, physical, emotional trauma in which we try to distinguish whether these things are of the world, the flesh or devil.  Then, again, are they directly from the Lord?

Naturally, we as believers are sent to the Word of God for answers, and an old favorite verse of Scripture surmounts the OVERSIZE LOAD.  “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NASB)  Obviously, there are no OVERSIZE LOADS when we trust HIM as we move through the weighty problems of life.  We rest confidently that each thing is part of “all things” (Romans 8:28), and that by rolling burdens onto the Lord makes them readily bearable.

Remove those OVERSIZE LOAD signs in your life.  They are unattractive and unnecessary.

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SIN NO MORE!

Let us get to the “nitty gritty” of this passage immediately.  In the Old Testament we had been told that those committing adultery should be stoned.  This was to be a controlling factor under the law.  (Leviticus 20) 

Obviously, this enforcement lessened quickly, because we read of people who indulged and were not stoned.  We also know that some of the great leaders were not held to accountability.  It appears that this might well have been the practice when this account took place, and the reason the Scribes and Pharisees felt justification for placing her “in the center of the court”.  Besides, she was caught in the “very act”.  Nothing is said concerning the person with whom she was engaged.

Though this story does not exist in all of the early manuscripts, it has an air of legitimacy as to having taken place.  I feel comfortable in referring to it because of the entire content on this subject.

Having brought her to this place and moment, we see her accusers presenting their case.  Personally, I see them using an opportunity to build a case against Jesus, not so much as against the woman.

One of the most significant moments of Jesus’ ministry was what He did next; He stooped and wrote with His finger in the sand.  Much has been jostled about the words written, but we have not been allowed to know with certainty exactly what was written.  We are so enamored with such that we would have retained the very sand in which He wrote and weaker individuals, religious or not, would try to use it in their weakness, to worship it more than the Saviour, JESUS!

Not to have their stupidity and power of superiority revealed, they persisted with questions.  However, our Savior says simply: “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Then, He stooped and continued writing.

As they thought on the comments He had delivered, “they began to go out one by one.  Beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court.”

The sweetest words that a sinner probably hears are these: “Woman, where are they?  Did no one condemn you?”  “I do not condemn you, either.  Go.  From now on sin no more.”  In that moment we see the epitome of GRACE!

Jesus elaborates on His ability to perform what He did:  “I am the light of the world: he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

Those words from the lips of our Savior, the only one who could speak them, “I and the Father are ONE!”  He says to those present, and the same to us: “…If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (Matthew 8:1 – 32)

-Ted

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ONENESS

When a recent newspaper article related the theft of mercury and its resultant effects on those who had been exposed to the fumes inherent in the product, my mind went back to my childhood and the lighthouse in which my father was employed.   Twelve hundred pounds of mercury lay in a trough on which a ton and a half lens floated, facilitating the possibility for a person to move that lens with one finger.   On occasion, the lighthouse would sway seven inches or more during high winds.   When this happened, the mercury would slush over the sides of the trough and land on the keeper on duty at that hour.   Usually his watch and the money in his pocket took on a new look as a result of the experience. Following that somewhat “shaky” experience, the process of cleaning up the area took on another challenge.   Usually, a dust pan and broom achieved the desired goal of collecting the mercury and after wiping the dirt from the surface, it would be re-introduced to the trough.   As a child I was always fascinated with the discovery that though scattered in thousands of liquid balls, the mercury would always reunite as one.

While the whole Book of Ephesians speaks of oneness made possible through the blood of Jesus Christ… Jew and Gentile, stranger and fellow-citizen, sinner and saint, etc… the verses of 4:4-6 emphasize the “seven twisted cords of Christian unity”.   One body and one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all…

While you may cherish your denominational distinctive for worship purposes, the ultimate is whether you are “in” Christ Jesus who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John14:6) and who alone is the provider of access to God and heaven.   The beloved disciple, John, said that when we love God, we keep his commandments… the declarations of Scripture… the Bible becomes our guideline of living 24 hours each day.   Jesus Christ is our oneness.   Though forces split us momentarily, the uniqueness of our oneness in Christ forever seals our relationship. (Rom. 8:39)

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EQUAL STRENGTH AGAINST TEMPTATIONS

One of the most blessed truths of Scripture has to do with dealing with the devil when he throws temptations at us.  Just a reminder that he knows our weakness and stands in readiness to hit us with every clever temptation that he has acquired. 

Certain things are more alluring than others as we move through life.  Inasmuch as we are still in this body of clay, that even though we have acquired new life in Jesus Christ, we have not reached perfection, and it pleases the devil to see us falter, to embrace the temptation, and be able to hold it before the Father… and Ted calls himself a servant!

In addressing the Corinthian believers, the apostle reminds them, and us, that God never leaves us destitute of strength, and His presence when the devil endeavors to lead us astray.  For our attention, there is 1 Corinthians 10 with its multiple encouragements concerning the things that “happen” to us.  That word appears in verses 6 and 11 where we are told God allows them for a purpose.  That purpose can arrive in negative or positive thought processes.  I am certain that I could make a long list of victories, and sad to say, some defeats.  I attribute those defeats to Ted when his heart failed to fix itself on the person of Christ, and forgot the assurance of verse 13 of 1 Corinthians 10.

Let us consider what Paul sought to remind us of: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”  The devil does not make us do it; in that old nature, we retain even after salvation, and we lustfully rationalize it to acceptance.

The devil does not make us “do it”; he navigates our weaknesses until such time as we compromise.  The energizing person of the Spirit of God is ever present in the believer, thus, whether the world, the flesh, or the devil invades the territory, whose owner is God, we can call on HIM, our Lord, for sustainment.

-Ted

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OUT OF PLACE

We hear of places on the globe that cause us to think to ourselves, “There is something I would love to see if opportunity ever affords itself.”  They call it “A once-in-a-lifetime adventure”, and we were a part of it.  We traveled to the Kilauea Volcano on the big island of Hawaii.  We stood gazing, perhaps even gaping at this monstrous chasm in the earth.  At least, we were not alone.

They call it “The hottest show on Earth”.  For the past twenty years, this volcano has continued to erupt.  We not only saw it here, but also saw it later in the night hours, as the glowing lava flowed into the ocean.  With the convergence of the lava and ocean water, huge steam plumes formed.  It was a picture that was imbedded in the brain for years to come.

As we circled the crater, we arrived at a point where we could walk out to the edge.  We took the opportunity to walk through areas where smoke was rising from fissures in the earth’s crust.  One could not help but be aware of the stench of sulfur that filled the air.  Finally, standing at a secure position and endeavoring to hold the camera steady in the wind, I observed the “hottest show on Earth”.  Everything was magnificent to observe and was, more or less, exactly what we anticipated.

A moment later, my thoughts are interrupted.  Was that bird what I thought it to be?  Sure enough, it is a “Long Tail”.  In Bermuda, these beautiful birds arrive from the Sargasso Sea in March each year and stay until their young are able to return with them.  These ‘phaeton lepturus’ make a home on the ocean and utilizes the ocean cliffs for reproductive purposes.  But, here they were utilizing the cliffs of this active volcano.  I had heard that we might find them on the ocean cliffs of Mexico, but in Hawaii was more than a surprise; it was bewildering.  I have not figured it out completely yet… finding these birds in a volcano.  Why in the world would they feel comfortable there?

Every time I read Ephesians, chapter 1 and see how God “chose, predestined, redeemed, forgave, bestowed, adopted, inherited,” and made of us “saints”, I marvel.  Repeatedly, this chapter talks about our inheritance in Christ.  Verse 14 says: “who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”  Later, in verse 23, it says, “Which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”  How in the world can we who are saints and headed for Heaven feel comfortable in this old world so filled with sin?  I have to believe that we are as out of place as those Long Tails on the cliffs of Kilauea.  Necessity might keep us here, but we should be longing for a better place called Heaven!

It is a foregone conclusion that saintly saints will not be comfortable in the surroundings of the world, the flesh, or the devil.  They long for the moment when the promises of eternity are actualized.  Every moment up to that point is lived with that hope in mind.  Christ has been seated at “His right hand in heavenly places”; and Christ said: “Where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3) Never allow yourself to be satisfied abiding in the confines of a depraved earth.  Come out from the world and be: “Separated unto Christ”. (Romans 1:1)

When Christ returns for His own, where will He find us?

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ADMONISH

One of the greatest challenges that can be thrown at a local congregation is found in 2 Thessalonians 3:15 … “Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”

With the mega church methodology of our modern Christianity, it is almost impossible to apply the practicality of this verse of Scripture.  People come and go and there is little of the flexibility of a smaller congregation.  To identify a person, a problem and pre-requisite of a Biblical approach to problems that are on the fringe areas of the fellowship seems to elude us.  It appears that for many it is merely a revolving door mentality with little by way of stability.  A brother or sister in Christ may never get the spiritual help they need. 

First, establish solidarity.  Sixty-five years ago, I learned of one of the most conservative denominations problems; that being liberal educators in one of their seminaries.  At that time one of my friends in another denomination said to me: “Ted!  I wish I had the trust that you have in the Inspiration of the Scriptures”.

Friends, I am not here to argue about denominationalism.  I am concerned about any group that does not adhere to Plenary Verbal Inspiration of the Scriptures.  Less than that position necessitates a choice of identification by which I recall a friend, not the one mentioned previously, asking me if I considered Him a heretic.  I sought the Lord intently for a clear answer in that moment and experienced the ministry of the Holy Spirit; “I consider you a weaker brother, but at the same time I understand that you consider me the weaker brother.”  We hugged each other without compromise on the subject and remained friends until his home going.

Obviously, the brother that had joined the fellowship of Believers at Thessalonica and was stirring up dissension needed attention and direction.  He might very well have need of admonishment, but it must be administered as “a brother”.  Continuing as a trouble-maker, it would be necessary to disassociate him from identifying himself as a member of that church. 

This whole idea of admonishment is remember, “He is a brother!”  There is no need to beat him to death!  It would be appropriate to begin with prayer and end with prayer.  It is essential that he understands both of you are but servants of THE KING!

-Ted

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ORNITHOLOGIST

An article in the newspaper proceeded to explain that the Professional Golfers Association had made a major goof.  In the process of producing a golfing tournament film, they had made a blunder.  In the background they had the wrong birds singing in the wrong location at the wrong time of the year.  Much embarrassment prevailed.  My question was not “how did it happen?”  I was much more interested in the fact that someone was able to identify those bird sounds and notice that the background sounds were completely out of kilter to the location.

Obviously someone, probably an ornithologist, observed that the production was inaccurate.  It seemed so small to me, but so major to them.  The truth is that I did not catch it, nor did I understand about the migration patterns involved.  Let’s face it, I would have been looking at golf and not being entertained by the background sounds.  Others were listening to the sounds.

I have thought often of how we look differently at things in life.  I think of my personal development and sometimes, I look at something I think is major in another person’s life; yet, to him, it is of little importance as compared with other areas of his life.  In retrospect, it is amusing to see what I observed as a priority issue of development that should be rectified, while that person considers other issues important while growing in the Lord.  That brother may have looked within and dealt with a host of items of which I was completely unaware.

Is it possible that we can behold “the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in our own eye”“Or how can we say to our brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:2, 3)  I have noticed, all too often, that something bigger than a 2 x 4 seems to be blocking my vision.  While I am critical by nature, I constantly must assert every effort to be understanding of where people have been, where they have arrived, and their goals for the future.

May we return to the text, Matthew 7:2: “For in the same way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”  One finds that much blessing can be missed by nit picking.  While one can be correct in identifying the birds, he might become so engrossed in doing so that he forgets that the priority item — the golf game in this instance — is drawing to a conclusion.  How I need to be reminded not to take over for the Holy Spirit, but recognize that He can do a better job on a fellow brother in Christ than I can ever begin to do.

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ROAD CONSTRUCTION AHEAD

The sign appeared hundreds of times during the three weeks that we spent traveling to the East Coast and returning home.  On numerous occasions there were additional signs: “Fines are doubled when workers present”  “Be careful!  My daddy is working up ahead” “Speed Limit Reduced” “One Lane…No Passing”.  The last person I would envy, work-wise, is the guy or gal who works out there on these roads.  It is close to suicidal.

Because we have constant construction in our area, no matter the time of the year, I realized that many of the places we visited had to put their construction programs in high gear during the summer months.  Also, a lot of what was called construction was probably repairs.  A few hard bumps confirmed that they had not successfully gotten everything, and maybe a few more signs and equipment were needed.

A thought has been floating in my brain.  The road to revival needs considerable repair.  It is not a new thought.  Goodness, it was a problem when John was writing to the seven churches of Asia in Revelation 2 and 3.  The Road to the “tree of life which is in the Paradise of God” (2:7) would come when the church remembered from where they had strayed, repented and start to do afresh the deeds that they had done when they first put their trust in Jesus Christ. 

We have Power Points in the sermons, we have Power for our Air Conditioning, we have power in our P/A Systems, and the list goes on, but where is the Power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of our members, our pulpits or the pews?  The haunting statement of Paul in the Book of Ephesians: “Be filled with the Spirit” (5:18) was an indictment then and continues to be an indication that the road to revival needs repair.

It was refreshing to go through Ephesians and note the times the Word “fullness” appeared.  The “fullness of God” filling the life of the believer is suggested throughout the Book.  However, we need reviving!  This is not something we can work up; it is something that needs to be sent down.  Such an unleashing of the Power of the Holy Spirit will come only as we Practice the Presence of God every moment of every day.  There are no short cuts to such an outpouring.  Acts 1:8 is just as true today as it was then. Let’s stop playing church and be satisfied with nothing less than every road being reconstructed, every bridge repaired, every tunnel refurbished. 

It is a big order, but we have a great God.  If those reading this article keep the road under Construction, our fellow travelers will join suit?

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SICK AND SICKENING

It is not often that we turn on the news only to be told that another “shooting” has taken place and numbers of people have been killed.  Usually there seems to be the addition: “Of them are children!”  What a tragedy!

Another addition often finds something to the effect that the gunman had no previous association with those he (And it is more so men) shot.  Much of it has to do with mental incapacity; but still there are those who just plain “hate” others.

Then we have people who associate groups of people with those that they have come to hate.  That hatred builds until it explodes.  It should have been spotted and dealt with in the early stages of an individual’s life.  However, those who have been aware of the problem or problems, fear bringing it forward to responsible individuals, (Parents or professionals) because homes are riddled with other problems, and often there is either the inability or willingness to deal with the problem.

Then, there is the Television that shows problems being solved with guns, divorce or sex.  The average parent is not aware of what their children are being exposed to.  Besides, many of them are too exhausted from work schedules to spot the direction to which their children are headed.   The problems just keep seeping into our society like race horses on a track and this has been going on for so long that they are now probably immature adults.

I leave with you only one verse from God’s Word:

“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit

Of the womb is a reward.”  (Psalm 127:3)

-Ted

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ROSE OF SHARON

Conversation concerning my late mother-in-law will undoubtedly rouse remembrances of her late years.  Each morning she would look out the kitchen door and view the hedge in their back yard.  Her comment was always of similar substance: “Look at the Rose of Sharon.  You know, Jesus is called the Rose of Sharon.”

We hear people talk of standing at the gates of Heaven making conversation that might be elicited in that moment.  Usually they are jokes or stories on the lighter vein.  It takes little for me to imagine Mom, having taken a look at what was before her, glancing back at us, and pointing inward saying: “THE Rose of Sharon… The revelation of Jesus is being realized!”

Winifred Walker, in her book All the Plants of the Bible, notes that the Rose of Sharon comes from the Hebrew word: chabazeleth.  It was in all probability the Tulip sharonensis.  It was “native to and grows in profusion on the Plain of Sharon which is situated between Carmel and Joppa, and is about sixty miles long”.  Early Spring produces a prolific display of these lilies in all their richness and beauty.

Our ministry has been assisted consistently by a group of men who desire to make known the Rose of Sharon.  To them we will ever remain grateful.  At the same time, they desire no plaudits of praise.  I can hear them saying: “Just keep exalting the Lord Jesus, our Rose of Sharon.”

The beauty of The Rose of Sharon and its reference to Jesus, the Savior of the world, is found in Song of Solomon 2:1.  Other passages give further light on the subject.  Israel, without the Savior, is nothing more than a desert. (Isaiah 35:1; 33:9; 35:2; Song of Solomon 5:13; 7:2; Hosea 14:5)  With Him they will blossom like the fields of Sharon in the spring.

The beauty of The Rose of Sharon in Song of Solomon 2:1, 2 is that it shows itself among the thorns.  Incomparable love is demonstrated in: “that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)  There He is, the Rose of Sharon amongst the thorns.

See!  THE ROSE OF SHARON realized.

 

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REBUILDING FOLLOWING A STORM

The effects of Hurricane Fabian’s visit to Bermuda in September of 2003 had left an indelible imprint on our minds.  We had been there when the hurricane had ravaged the island with the highest recorded winds in its history.  As we left the following week, we had to wait to cross a temporary roadway to the airport.  At the airport itself, we witnessed devastation on many of the buildings, and a ceiling had fallen in the room next to ours as we waited to depart for home.  Those were the final impressions, but others had been imprinted throughout the week.

As our plane landed on the tarmac in December 2004, we wondered just how much had been done to correct the damage we still held deep in our minds.  The causeway had been reconstructed; the south shore road had just re-opened, trees had been trimmed, and new foliage was out in abundance.  A section of one of the hotels had been demolished, but the beaches had been restored, and while construction continued on other projects, we could see that the majority of the damages had been cared for.  Bermuda once again held the aura of a perfect tourist paradise.

Most of us have encountered hurricane-force situations in our lives.  When they came, we were convinced that we had been proportioned more than any other person with a similar situation.  Perhaps it was a physical battle with cardiac or cancer problems.  Yours was one of those that seemed to have no end.  In fact, it may still exist.  Then, there is the possibility that a catastrophe tore open the well-established functions of the family; someone fell.  That someone was not the one you expected to fall, and your faith has faltered momentarily.  A divorce, a suicide, a death, an act of adultery, a gay member, something of a similar magnitude may have touched your life, personally or sufficiently close to make you hurt, hurt, hurt.

What have you done, or what do you intend to do about it?  You can sit back and mope, or you can take the bull by the horns and start rebuilding.  At one point the Bermuda Government turned down help from Great Britain.  They offered tents and tarps, and navy personnel, but Bermuda needed qualified people with construction ability.

The re-construction has been slow and tedious, but it has been consistent.  What we observed was the end result of that consistency.  So it is with our lives; we fall, but we do not allow ourselves to remain there.  Get up, repent, begin to rebuild by studying God’s Word and exercising the discipline of prayer.  If others are involved, seek their forgiveness.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3 NASB)

Fix you gaze on Jesus and you will discover the joy of rebuilding.