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THROUGH THICK AND THIN

When one considers the life of the Apostle Paul, you have to conclude that he left an indelible impression upon the world of his day.   However, two thousand years later he continues make an impression wherever Jesus Christ is uplifted around the globe.

From his conversion on the road to Damascus, (Acts9) he became a human dynamo to the world of that day.  His travels were extensive with the effect of a ministry that enabled the proclamation of Jesus Christ all the way westward to Rome.  He focused on places from Jerusalem to Philippi (northward).  One of his Epistles was written from Rome to the church at Colosse, a church that he had not helped directly to establish.  Epaphras was probably the instrument that God used for that ministry to be established.  However, Epaphras ended in Rome and was assisting Paul who was in prison.

Obviously, these two men co-mingled and ministered from a prison environment.  Paul learned of the problems of Colossae and took them to heart.  He writes to them to assure them that being cognizant of their problems he is burdened concerning their walk with the Lord.

Remember that back in verse 4 of Colossians 1 he had “learned of their faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope laid up for you in heaven…”  He also noted how they had immediately become involved in bearing fruit, souls for Christ.

Revealing his concern he assures them of what he is praying for: “That you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.”

Paul is praying because there is a problem of Gnosticism.  He reminds them that they have been “rescued from the domain of darkness and translated us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”(Colossians 1:14)

Please!  Please don’t ever forget where you and I have come from through the Redemption given us in Christ Jesus!  Stop!  Thank Him, even now!

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LAUNCHING OUT

As I write this, I am aware that we have come through one of the most complicated years that one can imagine, with more to be expected! 

Sad to say, but in understanding the Scriptures, one has to conclude that while all of this bedlam has been promulgated from one side of the world to the other, the Christian is resting in conviction that God, being on the Throne of Heaven, is prepping the nations for the inevitable, His judgment.

Viewing the world, we can see that it is inevitable that eventually, and not too distant, it is impossible to continue chipping away at each other without someone in arrogance, or a desire for pre-dominance, is going to purposefully, or accidentally, make a blunder that will create bedlam as compared with the past, of a magnitude that is currently un-comprehensible.

Two thousand + years ago Jesus beckoned believers to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel”. (Matthew 28:20)  Country after country has had opportunity to respond to the message of the Gospel.  Few are the places where Christ has not been proclaimed.  In some places positive response was so strong that you would have believed that it would be impossible for the world not to have heard.  Radio/TV Stations herald the message consistently, yet they are quick to remind us that there are “unreached” areas.  There is little question in my mind as to the accuracy of the penetration of the Gospel Message.  We have seen pockets of Revival, but the overall picture is that the message of Christ has not been as effective as one might expect after twenty centuries. Need I mention that printing, radio, T.V., language translators, and missionaries of every vantage possible, have not been able to conquer the challenge. 

With all that is transpiring, there is every evidence that we are rushing into the End Times.  We are utilizing equipment to replace personal accountability.  Friends, it is imperative that we need to respond positively to the message left to us by His servants of yester-year under the direction of the Holy Spirit…GO!  Matthew 28:20 remains unchanged, therefore, in obedience; let us present Jesus Christ with every opportunity as we GO!

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WHEN GOD SEEMS SILENT

On occasion I have thought to myself, “Why have I been praying? “  God does not seem to be listening to my prayers!  It appears that He has forgotten that I exist; in fact, I am discouraged to the extent that I do not “feel” like approaching Him, because I have asked again and again without a response. 

It is in that moment that I can hear the words of the Psalmist:  “For if You are silent to me, I will become like those who go down to the pit.  Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to You for help, when I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary.” (Psalm 28:1, 2) 

In reading this portion of Scripture I notice that the Psalmist concludes that with allowing such thinking he will go backwards, mentioning the wicked, the work of iniquity, and evil that lurks in their hearts.  Either I rise above such negativity, discover the cause of why I am “dragging bottom”, and see if the problem is mine or God’s.  Naturally, it does not take long to analyze!  Verse 6 calls attention to a most promising conclusion: “Blessed be the Lord, because He has heard the voice of my supplication.”

God has heard my supplication!  An excellent illustration of what has or is happening in the midst of our discouragement is, we have forgotten who is in charge of the situation, God or my desire.  Zechariah 3:7, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘If you will walk in My ways, and if you will perform My service, then you will also govern My house and also have charge of My courts, and I will grant you free access among these who are standing here’.”  You cannot help but notice the word from God: “My”.  Too often we forget that we are but instruments in the hand of the Lord, and we are “telling Him” instead waiting of His timing, or will in a matter.  His love permeates His response to us.

A second consideration is His testing of our faith.  Presumption is often the idea that God allows us to have a conviction, but timing is “down the road”, and He wants us to analyze and remain convinced, prayerfully, until the moment that He desires its fruition.

A third thought might well be that God actually has something different for you than what you thought and prayed about.  In this process He may be helping us to accept His rejection, because we have not listened.  Remember the old saying: “My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.”

I have been in each circumstance as mentioned previously, how God answered positively in His timing; how He put the brakes on something I had prayed about with conviction as to His will; how He re-directed in to something I had never anticipated.  He has not forgotten us!

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NOT ALONE

In life we face obstacles that thwart progress, one of which is the human fear of having such obstacles alone.  However, there have been occasions when I would have much preferred to have “company” to deal with problem. 

One such situation might be this “go” business that we referred to yesterday.  Those who know me personally are aware of my weakness, and even in my “old age”, they endeavor to encourage me in this area.  Perhaps their “push” has led me into this area of ministry instead of trying to keep abreast of the younger crowd.

God said “GO”!  Knowing there were people like me, He promised in John 14 that He would accompany me.  Not only there, but in verse 20 of Matthew 28 He spoke to us: “Lo!  I am with you always, even to the end of the age!”  That word “age”, we all know does not refer to my personal “age”, but to the end of the age, prophetically.

There are several things encompassed in that thought.  He is to be with me in the most difficult of circumstances enabling me to fulfill His instructions.  Then again, His presence is accompanying me.  My heart, my mind, is cognizant of His presence and therefore I am supported in this endeavor. 

Another consideration is that He is the “All Powerful” One who created the universe.  He is more than able to sustain me in fulfilling my commission from Him.

Please do not forget that we are an integral part of His purpose, and that we have been accorded the greatest privilege in the world!  We are living objects on an ambassadorship.

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COME! A FINAL COME?

The Book of Revelation was written to the seven Churches of Asia; it was written by the Apostle John, and indicated the immediate as well as the future for the Church.  It leaves only one church without a message of condemnation by the end of history; (Philadelphia) there God says: “I know your deeds.  Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word and have not denied My name.  I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you.  Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.  I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.  He who overcomes I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the ‘name of My God ,and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

In recalling the messages to the churches, one can see that as the years go by, there is repetition of the problems, and that the professing church of this hour finds only a small portion of “Philadelphians” following the dictates of Scripture.

That “quickly” of the hour and the speed is upon us.  Thus, the “COME” to Philadelphia is surely in close to proximity to fulfillment.

For a few moments, think on these things! (Brought to my attention.)

The Scripture concludes with a very personal, a most individual appeal.  (Rev. 22:17)

      Genesis 7:1 …God says “Come”

      Matthew 11:28 … Jesus says “Come”

      Revelation 22:17 … The Holy Spirit and the Bride says “Come”

      Psalm 70:7 … The sinner says “Come” (See Psalm 70:7)

      The first “Come” Brought salvation to Noah and his family!

      And you?

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WHEN I CONSIDER (Psalm 8)

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!”

I doubt that I am alone in “star gazing”.  As a child I often lay on the grass, in the hammock, or even sitting in a chair, and enjoyed gazing into the heavens.  It could be daytime or night, but there were always things to engage my attention.  I would often rise early just to see the sun peek over the horizon.  All of those observations were worth the time, but it never led me to become an astronomer.

As the years rolled by we lived in Alaska and watched the Northern Lights; on one occasion I lay on the deck of a fishing boat in the waters close to Valdez and watched them come down over the mountain, cross the waters, and rise above other mountains.  Spectacular does not suffice to explain those minutes as tears rolled down my cheeks.

Out here in Arizona, I find great satisfaction as I catch a glimpse of sunset after sunset and at times to be in remote areas with no lighting, but the planet and stars.  I know that I will never forget my first glimpse of the Southern Cross as we travelled through the Caribbean! 

The Psalmist evidently envisioned much that I have never observed in the heavens!  He watched the moon and stars and said they were “ordained”. (v3)  He referred to God’s creation and the heavens as “work of Your fingers”. (v3)  That is “finger painting” at its finest from the God of all creation, and every part of it with a purpose that we enjoy today.

There it is!  “What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?  Yet You have made him a little lower than God, with glory and majesty!  You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.  All sheep and oxen, and beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, whatever passes through the paths of the seas.”

Following all that God has made He allows man to put all things under his feet!

And, in greatest humility and with unlimited praise the Psalmist echoes again those words of verse 1: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!

Gaze upon the Glory of God!

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THE RICHES OF HIS KINDNESS

The advertising of the hour speaks of that to which I am “entitled”.   Some of it is accurate, and some of it questionable.   Discerning which is, or which is not, a part of an individual’s or organizations “entitlement” may prove frustrating. 

To discover later that you were “ripped off” can be a little more than annoying.  Forget it!  You responded to a need that caught your heart and ultimately the situation remains for the other to give account to themselves and God.

In reading thru Romans 2, I was reminded of “the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” I realize that the context of this passage lends itself to an understanding of one who ostracized God from his life, but that it does not exclude this old-boy from the awareness that I am accountable to God as to the manner in which I share. 

Often I reflect on the “richness and kindness of God”!   I do not endeavor to do it to boost my ego, but to make sure that I am humbled before HIM in enabling me to share with others out of what He has provided.  Please understand that you and I are the recipients of an entrustment, given to us through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.  God has showered upon us His “richness and kindness” in abundance, which I did not deserve.  Further, you did not deserve!

God has “no partiality” according to the 11th and 12th verses of that chapter.  We remain accountable for His grace toward us in Christ, Jew or Gentile.

There is ample evidence throughout Scripture; Acts 6, 1 Timothy 5, 6 are illustrations of handling financial blessings that God has given us to be shared with others.  As He has shared with us, so let us share with those in need!  As I have observed over the years, many of those less fortunate, and have needs of their own, are quick to share and never express regret; they consider themselves blessed of the Lord.

A review of Matthew 5, the beatitudes, is most refreshing.  After seeing the contrast with worldly thinking and achievement, and then projecting ourselves into Kingdom thinking, it is a most humbling experience.

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TEARS

That word does not appear in Scripture until 2 Kings 20:5, where Hezekiah, having learned of his approaching death from Isaiah, “turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord;” God responded through Isaiah, “return and say to Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of your father David, I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold I will heal you.  On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord.  I will add fifteen years to your life…’”

I have not encountered many people who prayed, with such a burdened heart, that I saw and heard the tears emanating from that broken heart as they poured out their concerns before the Lord.  (However, I have encountered some that gave evidence of such concern and experienced personal blessing from that experience.)

Reading through the first chapter of Genesis recently, I had no problem in envisioning how “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.”  What happened between verses one and two may yield to conjecture, but we know that it “was formless and void and darkness was over the surface of the deep.”  Inasmuch as God was about to create man, there was need for a habitable abode.  The materials were already there, and He had been moving upon the surface of the waters; so He moves next by creating light.  From there we see the continual progression of creation, as well as, human beings and man placed in Eden.

Some have concluded a multiplicity of ideas, which I have no intention to discuss herein, but to simply state that the omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God, like the artist, starts with a canvas and paint and ends several chapters later with HIS creation of six days and it was “good”.  I also have concluded from a multiplicity of portions of Scripture that the “darkness” was alien to God who was “light, love and life”. (1 John 1:5; 4:8; 5:20).  He took what was “formless and void” and molded it into our universe.  Then He took that material and the triune God, of Genesis 1:26, said: “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our Likeness…” Further, 2:7 indicates that “Then the Lord God formed man of the dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Have you ever thought that your breath originated from God, and that every breath of oxygen you breathe is from God?  If corona virus, and our machines to keep people alive have not got you thinking along those lines, try it!)

The 3rd Chapter of Genesis relates how sin entered into the human race and God’s initial punishment, driving them from Eden, “to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.  So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.”

There we have the “broken heart of the Lord” toward sin!  But, I have purposely skipped over God’s dealing with Satan on this issue; so let us look back to that reference. (Genesis 3:14)  “The Lord God, said to the serpent, because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than any beast of the field; on your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life; and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”

We have the prophecy concerning how God deals with sin.  The promise is for the sin bearer, Jesus, who would bruise the head of the serpent while Christ would be bruised only on the heel.

The gravity of your sin and mine ultimately nailed Jesus to a cross.  God promised that would be satisfactory, and only that, for “the enmity between” the seed of Satan and the seed of the woman.  A humbled heart between us and God and an acknowledgement of the sufficiency of Christ is needed by all.

What catches our attention in these opening verses of Genesis 1 is that “God created”.  The fact that it was “formless and void” does not present a problem, that is if you need a few million years, (more or less) to understand how at His bidding, after moving over the “surface of the waters”, He injected “LIGHT”.  The sun, moon and stars came later.

Some quick thoughts… Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus. (John 11:35)  He also “beheld the city, (Jerusalem) and wept over it”. (Luke 19:41)   And for those whom He wept over, and acknowledge their sin and His salvation, “and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

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BRAND MARKS – PART 2

Most of us bear scars of one type or another!  Sometimes we have opportunity to share the story of how those were acquired, and we go on a tirade to endeavor to surpass anyone who has just shared theirs.  I certainly cannot boast about some that I developed along the way, they are from ignorance.  They are not for boasting, just plain blubbering.

In the church of Galatia a problem had developed, one had to feel as though it became a “show and tell”!  Not quite, but in a verbal display of who had been circumcised.  It became a monstrous problem in that it became a judging point over whether you had, or not had, a “genuine faith” (Galatians 6:13). It also became a boasting point as to who had led who to Christ as Savior.

That annoyed Paul to the point that he said to them: “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world; For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.   And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.  From now on let no one trouble me for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus!”

From the moment the apostle had become a Christian, he had been a “fire-brand for Jesus”.  As a result, he had received persecution upon persecution, which left many scars. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 “…in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.  Five times I received from the Jews thirty nine lashes.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.  I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city dangers in the wilderness. Dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.”

Much like the churches in those early days, we can expect persecution of one type or another as we move assuredly toward the Rapture of the church and the tribulation to follow.  The Apostle made these things clear throughout the Epistles.   Let us not feel sorry for such expectations.  As indicated in Scripture, “the COMING of our Lord draweth nigh.” (James 5:8)  The best is yet to come!

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BRAND MARKS – PART 1

While much has been argued from the liberal and conservative sides of politics, of one side or the other, long ago I came to the conclusion that the majority of people have left God out of the matter.  Even when the Scriptures have been used, all too often they are used in a most haphazard manner. 

As a result, I might suggest that they are thrown around like jabs and lack any knock-out power.  If enough people make enough noise, and do so long enough, there is a strong possibility that they will get their way… right or wrong.

At this moment, the monstrosity of Covid 19 has actuated numerous churches to tackle government rules or regulations.  Of course, there are arguments, pro and con.  One is arguing from a Constitutional point of view; another from a doctrinal religious point of view (imbedded con-substantiation or trans-substantiation); and then there is the adopted view of the non-religious individuals or even the comforting thought that it is simply a remembrance.  With a little extra effort, I could easily recover many additional ideas.  Remember, I said “imbedded”!

Many individuals are justifiably likening the idea of a church to, “where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”  While that verse applies to the subject of a sinning brother, the principle of that and other portions of Scripture are justified.

A few things need reflecting upon!  The Pastor, or his equivalent in a congregation, must register in a State or some designated body under state laws to conduct a wedding. 

A pastor has no jurisdiction in a divorce.  It is left entirely to the Court to make the ultimate decisions.  While I have been the instrument of previous counseling and the conducting of the marriage ceremony, I remain anonymous as far as the State is concerned for an annulment or divorce.

The Government has already demonstrated that they are in control in these and other areas.  We as pastors are subject to the Government, and hence our churches, in other areas as well.  While I would like to believe otherwise, I am alert to the current crisis.

The direction of our country does not favor our arguments, and ultimately the likelihood of our arguments finding agreement to Holy Writ will result in persecution and probably martyrdom, as in the early church. Have you ever read Fox’s Book of Martyrs?  Have you checked out the Book of Revelation to see who the winner is?

While I am not as pessimistic as at first appearance, I am realistic as far as what the Scriptures project.  The day has come, and is coming, when we will ultimately lose some skirmishes; however, in the end, Christ will rule and reign…. We are on the VICTORY SIDE!    

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MOTHER-IN-LAW

It does not happen often, but when it does, it catches attention; and that was the case between Naomi and Ruth.

Elimelech, who was from Bethlehem, (which means house of bread and praise) married Naomi (which means pleasant).  And they had two sons, Mahlon and Chilion.  When a famine hit the area of Bethlehem, they moved to the land of Moab.  It says that they remained there, however, both men married and died.

As time slipped by, the decision was made to go back to Jerusalem.  Both women decided to go with Ruth.  Ruth is quite perceptive and encourages them to remain in Moab.  Orpha agrees, but Ruth has established a relationship with her mother- in-law, and decides to continue with Ruth.

One has to conclude that this is remarkable, a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law in a very close relationship.  However, the subsequent events show the confidence that each had in the other.  Instead of any negativity, we see only total faith and faithfulness.

There is no indication of Naomi still having mental ties to her son.  Later in the story Ruth marries Boaz and they have a child.  Naomi has the joy of tenderly caring for her grand-child.

I am throwing out a challenge to the appropriate individuals; establish this type of relationship with your mother-in-law.   Make the bond so tight that it is impossible to break, but becomes more intact as the difficulties of life simply become spring-boards for the future.

As Ruth committed herself to Naomi, you can read in the Book of Ruth, Chapter 1, verses 16 and 17: “Do not urge me to leave you, or turn back from following you, for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge.  Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.  Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.   Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” 

Recall, if you will, a most interesting verse of Holy Writ:

“Salomon was the father of Boaz by Rahab; Boaz was the father of Obeb by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse.” Matthew 1:5   “So committed were these folk to God and each other, that we find them in the genealogy of Jesus.”

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DISCIPLES – UNIQUE

If I had been desirous of turning the “world upside down” (KJV Acts 17:6) or “These men who have upset the world have come here also;” (NASB) I doubt that I would have chosen the 12 men that Jesus chose. 

But then, please make allowance for my limitations and abilities.  These men were unique in every aspect of their lives. (A Fishermen, a Tax Collector, a Thief, a Doctor, a Pharisee, as well as others about whom we have limited knowledge.)

John was so unique that he is described as “leaning on Jesus breast” at the Last Supper.  His writings have followed him!   He wrote the Gospel of John, three Epistles, and it was he who wrote the Book of Revelation.  What a contribution was made through his ministry.

Perhaps one might have an opinion about his ministry and its effectiveness; they probably have a conclusion about which of his writings are most important in the Canon of Scripture.  Of one thing we might be certain, through his ministry there are few that did not find something special for their part in his writings.

For a moment let us note that the word love appears more than fifty two times in 1 John!  That’s right, 52 times!  I take it that he made some observations that he did not specify but brilliantly covered and to which his readers could say: “John wrote that for me, in particular!”

While our Lord used two different Greek words to convey to Peter what love was all about, (John 21:15-17), He was showing the difference between “Tend and Rule or intellectual, emotional”.  How we need to see that following Jesus is more than just “talk”.  It means to put action to our words.  It involves submissiveness to His way, His walk, His will.  It involves closeness, presence, obedience, not just pretense.  

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WHETHER WE ADMIT IT OR NOT

It is probable that we have heard of Daniel and his ability to interpret dreams; if for no other reason our understanding of his experience in the lion’s den.  It is so extraordinary that it seems to have been repeated for more than 2600 years. Few of us, if any, would have equaled something of this nature. Backed into a corner for a similar encounter I am uncertain how I might respond, even though my God remains unchanged.  I would like to believe that I would realize in those moments that the same God, as that of Daniel, deserves my confidence.

In referring to that, or that of the fiery furnace, and Shadrach, Meshac and Abednego, it should awaken our hearts to the greatness of our wonderful Lord.  It should also make us aware of the fact, recorded in Daniel 2:46… “Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and did homage to Daniel, and gave orders to present to him an offering and fragrant incense.” 

How short our memories!  When Daniel’s buddies where cast into the fire for not worshipping the golden image, suddenly everyone sees, not three, but four individuals!  More, they are walking around, “still tied up”!  Further study would reveal that the fourth one would be Christ.  “The fire had no effect on the bodies of these men; nor was the hair of their head singed; nor was the trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.” (3:27)

God has not changed, we have!  We read in 3:16 “we do not need to give you and answer concerning this matter.  If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Still bending their knee to the true KING!  Our LORD!  Man sets up images and establishes conflagration, but you cannot remove the fire that burns in a man’s heart and soul when ignited by the Holy Spirit of God.  He sees and experiences “deliverance” which cannot be fathomed from a human standpoint.

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NEVER FORGET

We often joke about our forgetfulness as we grow older.  We sometimes, but not too often, have nothing to joke about. 

It did not take long after I became a Christian to realize, that in the process of studying the Scriptures that sometimes forgetfulness is a convenience and ends up as sin that I should have left behind when I first read Scriptures on the subject.

Peter was a straight-forward individual.  You read concerning doctrine and some of his activity and conclude he should not have been so obnoxious!  However, we read of the problems that plagued the early church, and some of them have never left, may-be, just maybe, it was what they needed by way of a very strong hand.

In his Second Epistle, the opening verses we read: “To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of our God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”

A visiting speaker had presented a forceful message at our church, which I appreciated deeply.  One of our ladies suggested: “We need more of that type of preaching across our pulpit.”  I could easily have been offended, but I agreed that was the case.  I thought to myself, “Peter must come and preach sometime soon so that we might both find satisfaction.”

In examining his opening statement we notice his powerful statements… a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ.  He is a slave of love to the Savior first.  Next he is an Apostle of Jesus Christ.  With that identification he shows that they are in an identical position as him… “The same as ours”.  You are no different from me, says the apostle.  We are joined with Him in our righteousness!  It is imparted to us thru God and Jesus our Lord!

Again, he is going to impart strong words:   In effect, “seeing His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness”.  Quit making excuses; you have the same “divine power” as Peter.  In addition “it came through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” 

Let us sum it up from such words as those of Peter to the brothers who must have felt a little sorry for themselves and were making excuses for not following the Lord whole heartedly.  We are in this together!  God invited us!   God and Christ imputed us with righteousness—HIS!  Quit feeling sorry for yourself and get with it, what He has done on yours and my behalf He will continue to do.  It is a foundational truth with no excuses!

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A WORLD IN MOTION – PART 3

A star in motion … Wise men in motion … Herod in motion … Joseph-Mary in motion … More wise men in motion … Angels in motion … Shepherds in motion … A Child in motion… And all because God was in motion!

A prophetic promise had been made to men by God (Genesis 3:15) would inevitably deal with Satan.  Here it was unfolding in “the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4). An impossible event was being enacted by God – A virgin was giving birth to a child.  A ruler was making a decision, (a decree) that would involve him in the bloodshed of children because of pride and position. 

Unbeknown to the average man and woman was the fact that the Savior of the World had arrived.  God’s promise concerning man and his sin was in the process of being dealt with!  Like us on the world revolving and our not feeling it, so all of these activities were being actualized!

We were involved in all of that motion!  God was sending His Son, Jesus, from His presence to become the perfect offering for SIN.  Knowing such a requirement could be met only under that being fulfilled; God willingly allowed Jesus to be our substitute and left us with only one choice…the words of the Apostle: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” 

The World may ruin the concept, but you cannot take CHRIST out of CHRISTMAS!

May yours and our Christmas be a blessed one!

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A WORLD IN MOTION – PART II

While “a Star” was edging wise men from the East toward Jerusalem, a decree was being enacted by Caesar Augustus to register and tax the folk under his control. 

A young couple, Joseph and Mary, in obedience to that decree, headed toward Bethlehem from Nazareth.  Enough is spelled out in the Gospels to give clarity that God had to be the one directing all who were involved—nothing is slip shod about God’s method.  Mary was with child, of the Holy Spirit!

Meanwhile, the Wise Men, assuming the information of a king being born was correct, headed toward Jerusalem and were even given entrance to Herod.  Their arrival and information enabled Herod to consider his next move.  He called together the wise men of the area and learned that Bethlehem would be the place that the Savior, the King, would be born.  Thus he gave them directions to find the “babe” and come back and inform him.  The sinister Herod was “out foxed” by those wise men who, after their visit with Jesus, Mary and Joseph, slipped home another way.

Other things were transpiring.  God had left this occasion to herald to the world, and this time to the Shepherds, further details about the birth of our Savior.  It is interesting from numerous stand-points…Here is the Great Shepherd being declared by angels as to identification.  (See John 10)   “In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.   But the angel said to them; “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be to all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.   This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”   And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:10-15)  Someone said: “Heavens choir came down to sing when Heavens king came down to earth to save.”

There is more to come but keep in mind what this experience did to those shepherds.  They, “The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.” (Luke 2:20)

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A WORLD IN MOTION – PART I

In reading the story of the birth of the Savior of mankind, Jesus, I recalled how God had to put everything into motion so that even simple minded people like me could not help but observe that only thousands of years later there would be the evidence of HIS planned program.

There had been a promise in Genesis 3:15 that God would one day send help to mankind to make it possible for restoration, until that day man could and would look with anticipation, expectation  for the how and when it would unfold.

There were many bumps along the road.  There was the confidence that God knew what He was doing, but there was the stubbornness of sinful hearts that at times were humbled into submission; and at other times there was unbending knees and inflexible minds.  As time went by, God would send prophets, kings, and Judges to instill hope to a people who, in general, by now had begun to modify, to re-interpret God’s original and subsequent promises.  In effect, they had become indifferent to the promise of a Messiah and the accompanying message that He would present!  Isaiah 53 was basically “thrown to the winds”.  “Who has believed our message?  And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?  For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him…” (V1-2)  A king was their desire… one to free them from Rome and its tentacles; not a youngster from Nazareth, a carpenter at that!  An “untaught” and under privileged individual in their opinion!

God often has other plans than those we lodge in our limited knowledge.  We, in the process of our thinking are like the one who said: “It would take a double Messiah to do what Isaiah wrote”.  However, it was accomplished by Jesus!

God had prepared some of the most unique things in readiness for the First Christmas. (As we call it!)  In the hearts of some “Wise men from the East He had placed the understanding of “A Star” that would indicate where Christ, the Messiah, would be born.   When they saw that Star, we are told, they “followed it”.  Naturally, King Herod was located in Jerusalem.  The proximity of Bethlehem to Jerusalem caused them to go there.  In asking questions there were those present who said that the birth should be in Bethlehem of Judea.  God had only given them a limited knowledge up to this point.  He used others to finalize their trip which was technically “foreign” to them.  How many and how much was involved in this investment, I do not know.  I do know that they were on “target”, and I know that even the trickery of Herod, the limited knowledge of the Savior’s arrival was sufficient to get them to a “stable” and a “manger” and Jesus Christ.

I will be writing more later, but the little that the Wise Men knew was enough to “speed them on their way”.  God allowed them to see through the trickery of Herod and lead them home another way.  They were much wiser than the “chief priests and scribes”; they arrived at the “manger”, (they met Mary whom they did not worship), they worshiped HIM, they presented their gifts, they were accorded a dream as to the way home.

I know little about the wise men; I know nothing of their background, their homes, not even what prodded them to save the gifts to present to Christ!  Were they a part of the Diaspora?

What is required, or was required, to bring you to Worship the Savior of the World?  Do not be tricked by the pleasantries of Satan or others!  Jesus Saves!

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TRADITIONS OR TRUTH

I look back often at some of the things I acquired in my developing years, only to discover that they probably are more of tradition than what would be an understanding and application of the Word of God.  An excellent illustration of this can be found in Mark 7.

The chapter opens with a group of individuals gathered around Jesus – Scribes and Pharisees in particular.  Their question is a “loaded one”.  There is the subtlety of accusation against the disciples, as well as our Lord.  Surely you have encountered that type of an individual, looking down their long noses with a sense of “I understand the teachings of the Fathers and you and they do not!”  Given enough rope, they will probably hang themselves.  Precisely what is about to take place!

This group of “super saints” picks on a tradition of washing of hands before they eat as well as cups, pitchers, and copper pots.  While these certainly are healthy concerns, what they were endeavoring to do was turn it into a “spiritual” tradition of the elders!  Let’s face it, there is always something for which we might criticize others, and they us.

Our Lord’s response, taken from the Prophet Isaiah is classic: “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me.  But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of Men.  Neglecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition!   For Moses said, “honor your father and your mother; and who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death”; ‘but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban.  (that is to say, given to God,’ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”

More is said in this portion of the Word of God about where this all originates.  Our Lord shows them the real problem and the evil things that “proceed from within and defile the man.” (v23)

Until a man is regenerated by the Spirit of God, born into the family of God, yielded himself in gratitude to the one who died on Calvary for his sin, only corruption can proceed from the heart.  Those religionists thought they had it all together, but they had a head religion without the experience of a HEART that had been humbled with the knowledge of God’s love, shed abroad on Calvary.

They criticized ….He was crucified!   What love for the critical and corrupt, for you and for me!

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PROVERBS 4:20-27

I promised I would do this on occasion.

“My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.

Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them and health to all their body.

Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life.

Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you.

Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.

Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.

Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.”

To these words I add Proverbs 3:18… “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.”

The closer we approach the LIGHT, JESUS, the brighter HIS appearance!

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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I WILL SEND MY BELOVED

There are those who will always challenge the conclusion to which we adhere:  God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who exists in the form of a trinity.  He is a unified personality who cannot be divided into different parts. (Deut. 6:4; Isa. 44:6; Jer. 10:19; Mark 12:29; 1 Thess. 1:9; 1 Tim. 2:5)

The Lord Jesus, while here upon the earth spoke mostly in parables, in one particular case He spoke on one occasion (Luke 20:9-18) concerning a man who planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine-growers.  He went on an extended trip.  At harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers so that he could enjoy some of the produce of the vineyard.  The vine-growers simply beat him and sent him away empty handed.

The man than sent a second slave who they beat and sent away shamefully empty-handed.  The man then proceeded to send a third, the vine-growers became even more violent and wounded him and cast him out.  It is almost incomprehensible, but the owner now says: “I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.  However, after conferring with each other they concluded: “This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance will be ours.”  So, they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him!  The owner of the vineyard arrives and destroys those vine-growers and gives to others.  Defensively those listening said: “May it never be!”

It is then that Jesus looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written: “The stone which the builders rejected, this became the Chief corner Stone?  Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”

The next thing we read is that “the scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Him that very hour, and they feared the people; for they understood that He spoke this parable against them.”

In the midst of this entire parable, which might seem a bit long, we find these beautiful words: “I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.”

He, the owner, did send His Son Jesus!  But like the scribes and chief priests, they rejected HIM.  While some may say: “May it never be!”, like those who rejected HIM then, we still find a large number that reject HIM even though God did, and continues to reach our saying: “I have sent my Son, my beloved Son.  Hear ye HIM.”

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.  He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:16-18)

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WHEN JESUS SPEAKS

The majority of us know what it is like to have someone immediately challenge us on a subject that we have just presented.  How they respond makes all the difference as to what we will say next.  We can ask for elaboration.  We can respond by explaining in detail a little more than we have initially presented. 

We can react and become engaged in argument.  We might smile and say simply: “I am completely satisfied with my conclusion.” It is highly unlikely that I might hit upon your response. 

My Mom and Dad had their moments.  I recall him saying: “Woman, you are a fool!  Her response could be counted on: “That makes two of us, you and me!”  They still made more than fifty years together!

At the conclusion of one His discourses, in particular relating to the “Bread of Life”, Jesus said: “This is the will of Him who sent Me.  I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” 

Naturally, that created reaction.  Some of those present “were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.”  Saying such created reaction: “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How does He now say, “I have come down out of heaven?”  That type of a reaction would come from some of your friends were you to say: “Jesus came down from heaven.  He is the Bread of Life!”  Why not try it?

Our awareness that in the society in which we dwell Christ is not recognized any more than those present in that day.  If He was accepted as the God/Man who died for their sin, there would be a radical change in each individual who so recognized Him.  In the days of yesteryear it was called a revival!  On one occasion a man was heard to say it was a Re-Bible.   A broken heart about sin and an understanding of God’s forgiveness in Christ makes a major difference for here and eternity.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.  Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father God, has set His seal….This is the work of God, that you believe in Him who He has sent.”   (Luke 6:26-40)

That statement by Christ was repeated twice in the Scripture presented…Do Not Let It Escape You!

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MY SHEEP HEAR MY VOICE

Another of those thoughts that I captured in my study of the Scriptures!  Sheep have two marks: “In the ears” – “they hear my voice” (v4), “in the feet” – “they follow ME” (v5) …taken from John chapter 10.

In the process of reading a commentary on John 10, I had been given a thought concerning the Shepherd and his sheep.  As they return to the sheep-fold for the night, the shepherd identifies them by calling them by name and then tenderly strokes each sheep.  It becomes a custom, but it is also creates that personal association where the sheep and shepherd identifies their relationship.  In the event a sheep is missing, the shepherd acquires help while he retraces his steps of the day to ascertain what and where his lost sheep is to be found.

In relating this discourse Jesus first identifies Himself as the “door”.  He does this to make the listeners aware that there are not “many” ways into the “sheepfold”, there is only one way; and as the “shepherd”, one only enters through HIM!  He is the door.  As they pass through the exit or entrance, they receive personal identification, because HE knows them by name.

Again we are reminded that as He leads them, they follow.  They “know His voice!”  HIS sheep are readily identified as over against the thief or robber, because of their identification to HIS voice.  I recall that my grandmother would get mixed up on her grand-children’s names, (27 of us) but, my blind grand-father batted a thousand.

“He goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow HIM because they know his voice.” (v4)  It should not take long for one to identify with his shepherd.  Study of the Scriptures, contextually, and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit (John 14) and you will learn how to identify a “thief or robber”!

While speaking to these Pharisees, (v16) we catch another enjoyable note that is very personal to the Gentiles: “Other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.”

When you have heard the voice of Jesus through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, respond!   Follow Him! 

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THE REAL REASON FOR THE SEASON

(Used with permission from a dear friend, Linda DeSilva)


Tomorrow is the first Sunday in Advent. Why and how should we celebrate Christmas? Is it to see the Santa Claus Parade (if there is one in this COVID 19 year)? Is it to indulge ourselves? After all, Christmas comes but once in a year. Is it a golden opportunity for the already-struggling businesses to improve the ‘bottom line’ for the year? (Unfortunately for them, on-line shopping is an attractive option.)

No! The real reason for the season is to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He is unique in world history as attested to by His amazing attributes, which include the following.

In Biology, He was born without the normal conception. (Matthew 1:21)
In History, He is the beginning and the end. (Revelation 1:8)
In Government, “He shall be called wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
In Chemistry, He turned water to wine. (John 2:1-10)
In Economics, He disproved the Law of Diminishing Returns by feeding 5000 men (in addition to women and children) with two fishes and five loaves of bread. (Matthew 14:13-21)
In Religion, He declared, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
In Physics, He overcame the Law of Gravity, when He ascended into Heaven. (Acts 1:8-1)

But, what about the future? One day, Jesus will return to earth – no longer as the helpless Babe but as John saw in his vision: “Now the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (See Revelation 11: 15.)

JESUS: The Real Reason for the Season. Celebrate Him!

– Linda DeSilva

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INFLEXIBLE PEOPLE

Have you taken time and opportunity, (which you have to create because of the crushing pressure of society, directly or indirectly, to mold you into its likeness); to study the last three days of Christ, leading to His crucifixion?  To do so you will find yourself wondering how people can be so inflexible.

As He presented truths leading to these events, a major portion of the people listened closely, while the Scribes, Pharisees and Herodians, along with others, were violent in their attacks to discredit, Jesus.

Israel was under Roman rule, and so it was in kind that they take Jesus to Annas first after they had arrested and bound Him.  Annas was father-in-law to Caiaphas, and he also was the one who promoted the idea that “it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people”.

When before Annas, Christ was asked about His teaching, to which He answered: “I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret.  “Why do you question Me?  Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; they know what I said.”  To which one struck Jesus and said: “Is that the way you answer the high priest?”  To which Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike me?”

Obviously frustrated, Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

From Caiaphas, Jesus was led to the Praetorium.  Inasmuch as this would present a problem for these sanctimonious individuals in celebrating the Passover, they did not enter the Praetorium.

Again we see the determined attitude as Pilate even came out to accommodate them.  He tells them: “Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law.”  To justify their action in bringing Him to Pilate!  “We are not permitted to put anyone to death” is another maneuver.  So Pilate summons Jesus into the Praetorium and asks Him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative or did others tell you about Me?” Pilate is quick to answer: “I am not a Jew, am I?” 

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is My kingdom is not of this realm.”

Again Pilate speaks: “So You are a king?”  Jesus answered “You say correctly that I am a king.  For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

It is at this point that Pilate says, “What is truth?”  At this he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him.”  A few minutes later he repeated that statement and then said:  “Behold the Man!”

Without going into the further on goings and the crucifixion itself, I return to that which I used for a title: Inflexible People!  No one would yield to the truth!  Even in the midst of all the facts, and Pilate having asked: “What is truth?”  Troubled hearts with a mindset against the Savior sometimes remain inflexible. 

Those who accept correction and recognize Christ for who He is will find that bending to the truth made for a wonderful life and a Blessed Hope!

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EXAMINE THE BLOOD

When I first moved to Arizona, I helped move a machine that could do thirty two blood tests at the same time.  It was a monster!  We moved it from the second story of a Doctor’s office to another office about a quarter mile away.  We earned our keep on that job.

If blood testing was used in the fashion with which it is currently conducted, I knew nothing about it.  I had read about some of the practices in by-gone years and thought them be almost unbelievable.  Never-the-less, it was part of the process that has led to our current testing practice.  I know that some of you will immediately say, “Ted, what do you expect at your age?”  Thank you for you “sympathy”!

It is incredible what can be determined in a blood test.  Pressure is up, pressure is down, too much salt, too much sugar; you will need to see a specialist for what we see as a problem or questionable.  I have not even mentioned of the “fun” they have as they search for a vein.  Prior to my heart by-pass years ago, two nurses arrived and announced that they were the “harvesters” and they were searching my legs for a vein that the Doctor could use for the by-pass.

It took a mighty long time for Medical Science to be able to determine the qualities of the blood. Perhaps reading Leviticus 17 would have enabled them to be more focused earlier: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.”  “For as for the life of the flesh, its blood is identified with its life.  Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, “You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off.” (verses  11, 14)

Inasmuch as the “life of the flesh is in the blood”, we realize that God put a high value on it, even to the point where it was to be used for sacrificial purposes.  I must mention that it was also a picture of the blood sacrifice on Calvary in the person of our Savior Jesus.  There is little question in my mind that because of what God said, we should, even today, abide by that instruction.  I have to wonder if many of our physical maladies might be, in large, because of our disobedience in this area. 

Please take time to read the entire chapter of Leviticus 17, because it not only was related to the sacrificial offerings, but it obviously was a health factor, long before we had modern refrigeration.

Remember the old Hymn, “There is power in the blood… Wonder working power in the precious blood of the Lamb!

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ARE YOU BORN TWICE?

Almost a grin upon his face, within his heart beat hope,

He spoke his boyish, anguished words, but heard the man say “Nope.”

“You look here son, I bought the boat; I’ve got the bill of sale.

 Why if I gave these things away, my business soon would fail.”

“Now if you wish I’ll hold the boat, till you can raise the money.

A dollar’s all the price I ask, is that a bargain Sonny?”

The boy said:  “Well, I guess so sir, though I made the boat myself,

I lost it on the stormy lake, that’s it upon your shelf.”

A few days lapsed, than back again, a dollar in his hand,

The boy said:  “Mister, here’s you price for my boat there on that stand.”

Then gazing fondly at the boat, he spoke as if it knew:

“I made you once, now your mine twice, “cause” I’ve just paid for you.”

Oh derelict on sins tossed sea, stormed by demon crews;

Born once die twice, born twice die once, each soul must surely choose.

Born once can never be enough, for Jesus paid your price.

No earthly effort can avail, UNTIL YOUR SOUL’S BORN TWICE!

-Bruce Parker

Read John 3… Born once – die twice, Born twice – die once

Better never born than never Born Again!

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SANTA CLAUS AIN’T COMING TO TOWN

I was brought up in a home where much was made of “Santa Claus” as a part of the Christmas celebration.  It was not within Patsy and my understanding and agreement, to foster that particular inclusiveness into the thinking of our children.  However, celebrating Christmas in itself, and with others, was a definite part of our home.  Most important was to join in the atmosphere of the year, but in our home or church we desired Christ predominant.

I do not find it acceptable to totally withdraw myself from the manner that others celebrate, but always to have them see that I am not a wet rag, and that I somehow represent the Savior, Jesus, as the center of my celebration.  The frivolity of some of the so called “Christmas” music is tolerated, but certainly not as agreeable to our focus on Christ.

While reading the Book of Ephesians last evening, the Holy Spirit impressed upon my mind the recurring word, GRACE.   As a pastor of 60 plus years, I can recall how often “Amazing Grace” was a preferable song for funerals.  Sadly, all too often there was a question in my mind if the deceased, or those present for the Service, was totally aware of the Gift of Grace that God extends to mankind through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

Christmas is a wonderful time to refresh our thinking concerning the GIFT that was extended to us in the person of Jesus Christ.  It was not something earned, or something deserved in any fashion; it was strictly GRACE manifested through the Love of God for us and to us, in Christ.  Every gift extended only finds acceptance when we embrace it, open it, and express our appreciation.   The gift is not the boxes or wrappings; He is the person of Jesus!  He waits while we open our hearts and lives to Him.  He is the epitome of GRACE! 

You will not find the GIFT under the tree and left by Santa Claus, but you will find HIM in Ephesians 2:8-10… “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

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FACE TO FACE

I wish I had met Mr. Anonymous.  Here he dropped by and left a poem to which I must most gladly give credit!

I had walked life’s way with an easy tread,

I had followed where pleasure and comforts led,

 Until one day in a quiet place

I met the Master face to face.

With station and rank and wealth for my goal,

Much thought for the body, but none for the soul,

I had entered to win in life’s mad race,

When I met the Master face to face.

I had built my castles and built them high,

Their spires almost pierced the sky,

And I’d sworn to rule with an iron mace,

When I met the Master face to face.

I met Him and knew Him and flushed to see

That His eyes, full of sorrow, were fixed on me;

And I faltered and fell at His feet that day,

While my castles just melted and vanished away.

Melted and vanished, and in their place

Naught else did I see but the Saviour’s face,

And I cried aloud, “Oh make me meek

To follow the steps of thy wounded feet.”

My thought is now for the souls of men,

I lost my life to find it again,

Ever since that day in the quiet place,

I met my Jesus face to face.

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SOME THINGS NEED TO BE SAID

A few days ago I was reflecting on my ministry over the years.  In the process of doing so, I reflected on what I thought to be my strengths and weaknesses.  Being “dear old Ted”, I found an ample number in each area; in fact I found too many negatives to suit me, and decided that all I was ending with was a personal crucifixion.

Looking back on the beginning of my ministry I probably said some things in a “holy boldness”, as I thought, and as the years went by, I probably said things in such a manner as not to cross swords.  In reflection, considering my congregation I think I found a balance.  It was the word that I hung on the wall behind my desk, just in case I needed to move one direction or the other.

Looking at problems that plague our churches in this hour, I am convinced that they are run more like a business than a church.  My beloved wife said quite often, I am glad that we are at the end of our ministry as over against the beginning.

A little thought ran through my mind of recent; it was something that was written in 1 Corinthians 4:14… “I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.”

The church at Corinth had a multiplicity of problems, thirteen as I recall.  In dealing with those problems the apostle had to return to its history.  He was the messenger used of God to establish that church, to which he returned on two additional occasions. 

He was determined to deal with those problems piece meal.  Naturally, you always have those who say the equivalent of: “And who is he that he thinks he is able to dictate to us.  In fact he is writing to us “boldly”.   But, if he should return, he will be “milk toast” in the manner in which he speaks to us.”

In no uncertain terms, the Apostle writes and assures them, “clean up your act before I arrive, because you will see just how staunch I can be.”  (I hope you did not get upset with my rendition in the vernacular.)

It is important that we consider our tone when dealing with a problem.  I would say to the congregation in a business meeting, “Watch your tone or I will ask you to sit until you can say it with love emanating from every word.”

No one, get that, no one in a meeting should aspire to think themselves more important than another.  A good illustration is the widow who gave “two mites”.  Before the Lord it was equal or above what some others thought they had given. (Luke 21:1-4)

We have to learn to converse, like the Apostle to the Church at Corinth, with boldness and love, no matter how we see the others weakness.

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ARGUING WITH GOD

Of recent, we have all given our opinions about the elections, and utilized as much Scripture as possible to solidify our opinions about how to pray for “the will of the Lord”! 

In most cases we have become convinced that our prayer life has been tossed to and fro like the ocean waves, only to conclude that I was right or wrong.  Some probably thought that God had given up on them, and this whole thing of prayer was a waste of time.  I throw out a few thoughts for your consideration.

If prayer is only answered in the manner in which I presented it to the Lord, it is certain that I would ultimately turn into a more selfish person.  For instance, in Mark 8, the Pharisees thought that Jesus should give them a “sign from heaven”.  Further, in verses 11-13, we read concerning their “hidden” intentions.  They wanted to “test” Jesus, and it they desired “a sign from Heaven; He was standing before them!  He just left them wondering!

I inject the story of the man who sought Jesus concerning his son.  “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out.  I told your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.” (John 17-29)

After rebuking those present, the son is brought to Jesus, and the father elaborates further.  “It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him.  But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”  And Jesus said to him, “If you can?”  “All things are possible to him who believes.”

Immediately, the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

Jesus rebuked the spirit, and we read: “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.”  The spirit left, not to return.  This produced a question from the disciples: “Why could we not drive it out?  And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”

Many are they who pray “The Lord’s Prayer”, and forget that there is in that portion of Matthew 6:10, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  Prayer should always be in “faith”.  I should be convinced of the Holy Spirit that which I am seeking of the Lord is within HIS Will, prior to rattling off mere words.

So, in seeking the Lord’s will, let us be reminded that God used righteous and unrighteous leadership to accomplish His desires for His people.  Sometimes it was for immediate, sometimes long range, but as the Scriptures and History reveals, it is would ultimately bring glory to the KING OF KINGS, JESUS CHRIST!

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DISCERNMENT

The 119th Psalm is the longest of the Psalms.  In the event that you are one of those who underline verses, or even passages of Scripture that are meaningful to you, that it gets your attention quickly as you are looking for something in particular, this one is filled with highlights.

Because we live in such morally corrupt times, those being defined by our Lord throughout His Word, the Holy Bible, (Romans 1 being an example), any person identifying themselves as “Christian” finds it necessary to heed such passages as Psalm 119:65-67.  “You have dealt well with Your servant, O Lord, according to Your word.  Teach me good discernment and knowledge.  Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.”

What a word!  Discernment!  Think about the forces of evil that we face daily!  Throughout the Scriptures, we find men and women who faltered here and there all too often!  It is easy to make accusations against such individuals. but self examination mirrors all too often we have problems equal to others… maybe greater.

That word, discernment, is a challenge to any child of God.  It takes honesty on our part to identify that which is in conflict with the Word of God, and then to purposely confess it to God, and not allow it to become an element of our life-style that is in obvious opposition to His holiness.

In addition to our selected verses, I quote from Philippians 1:9.  “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment”…

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Slowing Down and Learning to Be Content With It

There are many times when slowing down is not part of my agenda.  From a young age my dad would say, “Teddy, go cut the grass.”  I’d respond with, “I just did it yesterday.”  His counter, “Well, do it again!”

I was always taught to keep busy, sometimes to a fault.   So with my latest injury (broken hip) putting on the brakes, I have had to put into practice Philippians 4:11, “…for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

God has seen fit to heal me far faster than I, or anyone, had anticipated.  Much of this is to do with the prayers of many and the care from family.  Because of this, I am able to start the blog up again.

This Thanksgiving, take time to slow down.  Learn to be thankful for the rest.  Learn to accept others doing for you, and be content; follow the words of our Lord in Philippians 4:11.

“The key to contentment is to consider. Consider who you are and be satisfied with that. Consider what you have and be satisfied with that. Consider what God’s doing and be satisfied with that. You will be amazed at how much more comfortable you’ll feel with yourself. Finally, consider this: If contentment cannot be found within yourself, you’ll never find it.” -Luci Swindoll

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PAUSE IN BLOGS

Hello everyone,

Firstly, we want to say we apologize for the lapse in blog posts being uploaded.

Secondly, we want to explain why. On September 16th, Pastor Ted was doing wood working in his garage when he lost his balance and fell on the concrete floor. This resulted in a shattered femur. He underwent emergency surgery and had rods placed into his femur for reconstruction.

He has been home for a week now and is slowly getting better daily. However, attention has been turned towards him as his family is working to ensure he is comfortable and growing stronger.

Once he has healed enough, we will begin to create more blogs that you all love to read!

Thanks for the support and prayers during this time.

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F R I E N D

Dr. Luke writes extensively about the Wonderful Lord Jesus.  In particular, I refer to an account early in the ministry of the Savior, when some friends of a paralytic were taking him on a stretcher, hoping for Jesus to heal him. 

Realizing the situation to be almost impossible, they climbed on the roof of the house; let him down through the roof, into the middle of the crowd, and into the presence of the Savior.

There is immediate response on the part of Jesus, who saw their faith.  How would you like to be on a team of men who appreciated you so much that they resorted to bringing you to Jesus?  Initially, we are made aware of their faith.  Try as you might to envision the conversation as they arrived at his home, possibly already carrying the stretcher, and his being told, “We are taking you to see Jesus!”  A possible discussion ensued, but the trip was: “Let’s go!”

You arrive at where Jesus is located and it is virtually impossible to penetrate the crowd who are enamored with His teaching and healing.  Another brief discussion with the paralytic gentleman as they announce: “To the top of the house we go.”  You know that the crowd has to see what is going on, and the Savior is aware also.  He says nothing to or about the paralytic initially.  He looks at those men, who were probably standing up there looking down, and the record says: “Seeing their faith,” …You know, looking back you probably are aware of some individual, who seeing your need, exercised their faith…  They spoke to you concerning your need of Jesus, gave you literature, invited you to a meeting or church Service, and even picked you up in their car and brought you to church where they, in faith, knew in their heart that you needed and would find Jesus.  He took note of the faith being exercised on your part.  He honored it!

Then the explosion… Jesus looked at that man and His next word and words were ever so simple: “FRIEND, your sins are forgiven you.”   A more beautiful word or words could not be heard!  “FRIEND!”  In spite of the tragic experiences that might have been behind him, Jesus called him friend!   Then He adds: “your sins are forgiven you”.  If you are a Christian, you recall those words, as do I, when HE said those words or their equivalent to me!

Naturally, the scribes and Pharisees had something to say about what had happened.  You know as well as I, that someone, somewhere is going to challenge your experience.  Before that takes place outwardly Jesus says: “Why are you reasoning in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins have been forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?

“But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,”—He said to the paralytic—“I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.”

Jesus says in effect to you: “Friend!  I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.”  From a spiritual application: Pick up your stretcher, go home and let it ever be a reminder of what Jesus said when you allowed Him to wash your sins away!

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TO BELITTLE IS TO BE LITTLE

When this thought came to my mind years ago, I was considering some thoughts on the tongue.  Naturally, (something I have shared previously) my mother’s comments came back: “Empty kettles make a lot of noise!”

The “Wise Man”, Solomon wrote some “masterful” advice in Proverbs 6.  “There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:  Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers!”

So, if I recognize that he was as wise as accredited to him, to violate those words reveals my ignorance, as well as disobedience to the inspired Word of God.

We are living in an era when it is popular to decimate others, to see if our vocabulary contains a volume of words that we feel is most identifying of others, to reveal our intelligence and their ignorance.  Hatred is behind it and only reveals our own lack of discipline to say what needs to be said without descending to a lower level than those with whom we disagree.  The previous mentioned Scripture, practiced, shows the adaptation of the words of the Wise Man!

I understand completely what the Psalmist said in Psalm 57, “My soul is among lions; I must lie among those who breath forth fire, even sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows and their tongue a sharp sword.  Be exalted above the heavens, O God; let Your Glory be above all the earth…My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing, yes, I will sing thy praises! …Be exalted above the heavens, O God; let your glory be above all the earth.”

TO BELITTLE IS TO BE LITTLE!

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JUSTIFICATION

You have heard that the word justification means “just as if I had never sinned”.  It has a little more to it than that.  Having heard Dr. Charles Woodbridge speak on this subject many years ago, I picked up his writing so that I might copy it for you. “Regeneration and justification are closely related doctrines. 

Regeneration has to do with the change which takes place in the believer’s heart; justification concerns the change in his standing before God.  Regeneration refers to the impartation of life; justification to his acceptance as righteous in the eyes of God.  Regeneration is the divine answer to the problem of spiritual death; justification is the divine answer to the problem of spiritual guilt.”

The youngest child will display his inherent propensity to sin, and it will continue to magnify itself as it grows older.  Unless the individual experiences the intervention of God through GRACE, they will continue to death and afterward to judgment.   When they invite Christ, the Savior of mankind, to be the Shepherd of their soul, and to cleanse them from sin, thru Grace God will embrace that individual into Sonship.  That act removes sin and its taint from the individual and God sees them as justified as to their new found and imputed righteousness.

Once you experience the knowledge of your sin forgiven, and how God has beckoned you into His family and has imparted, through grace, that imputed righteousness, you will desire to flee sin and its attachments.  Romans 3:23,24  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”

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BETTER THINGS

I find it interesting that we have two groups of people, Democrats and Republicans, both promising that they have better programs for us in the future.  Some of those promises have been clarified; others are not defined; still others are your guess and mine. 

Maybe, just maybe, some of those will be detailed and some will be buried so deep that we will have to use our imagination to come up with an understanding of what they might mean.  The end of whatever is said will wend itself through the House and Senate, and finally we will only hope it to be the proper balance for America.

When you read the Book of Hebrews, whose authorship remains debatable, you discover that there need not be a debate about the authors understanding of the Hebrew background.  In fact, the opening verses clearly indicate how he saw a major transition from a promised Messiah to its fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ.  I quote: “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, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.  And 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.”

Now, to some of those BETTER THINGS that He provided us as a result of the transition that occurred with the realization of the promised Messiah in the person of Jesus Christ.

Better Things (6:9)

A Better Hope (7:19)

A Better Covenant (8:6)

Better Promises (8:6)

Better Sacrifices (9:23)

Better Substance (10:34)

Better Resurrection (11:35)

Better Country (11:16)

Better Blood (12:24)

Let’s face it … Through Christ everything is BETTER!

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ONE YEAR LATER

The media is working every way possible to convince us how to vote in the forth coming election. Personally, I have retained that old fashioned manner of responding to the question of:  “How or for who have you planned to vote?” “That is my business and mine alone!” 

Admittedly, I have some things for which I could vote on either candidate and some for another.  The question is, “Which candidate out of my total feelings is worthy of my choice?”  As an immigrant of the 60’s, and naturalized, I have my leanings.

Some years ago, as I was reading concerning the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the thought entered my mind, “Look at that!  Less than a week ago these people were “hanging on every word He said”. (Luke 19:48)  How quickly people are prone to change their mind about others.  One week they “hang” on every word, and the next week they are engaged in crucifying Him.

Trying to “weed” through every statement made by the politicians is not easy.  Their script writers and the interpreters who want to make a little excitement for the readers, like you and me, are often “masters of deceit”, and you need to consider many sources in endeavoring to secure a satisfying conclusion.  You also have to remember that the polls of our readership, is the determining factor of their income.

As I mentioned previously, they were favorably impressed when examining the words spoken the previous week, but now they are “gobbling” up every word of the “chief priests and the scribes and the leading men among the people”.  They loved it when Jesus spoke the truth: “And my house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a robbers den.” (Luke 19:40, 46)  However, when it dictated a change in their worship or life style, they “hung HIM on a cross.”  One week and they became “lopsided” in their thinking.

As we go to the polls, prayerfully seek the mind of the Lord!  Be sure your vote is backed by the overall teaching of the Word of God.  Fervently recall the words of David and the Parable of our Savior…”Thy WORD is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path”… (Psalm 119:105, Luke 8:18)

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A HOUSE OF PRAYER

It is noticeable!  Many of our churches have acquired new names.  We are left with the challenge of determining if they are Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Charismatic, Independent, Presbyterian or just what!

Once we attend a Service or two, we soon discover the type of program or programs they “offer”, and the type of music or preaching that is prominent in their Services.  I asked a question or two about these areas of ministry and found that in many cases the folk attending have little idea of denominational distinctions.  It reminds me of the political arena where people claim an identification, but the organization is so befuddled that one has no basic idea if in reality they are one or the other.

Crossing swords is not a joy to me.  It is not that I have not tried, but so often it arrives when one least expects it.  In my case I usually try to find out a key element as described by Jesus in Luke 19:45-48.

Jesus arrived at the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling.  He said: It is written, “And My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a robbers’ den.”  Many focus on the last part of that statement and I would have to admit that there is reason to raise that question.  However, the majority of churches and organizations are not in that category.  They are struggling to make ends meet.

That which is most disturbing is that Jesus quoted what had been said by Jeremiah and others: “My house shall be a called a house of prayer.”  Few are the churches that have a PRAYER MEETING!  In the event one is scheduled, you can probably count on both hands the attendance.  We are in trouble!  We are not acknowledging our responsibility of focusing on what the Savior noted as He entered that temple.  Probably, the manipulative processes that we use to attract people into the House of the Lord, is indicative of our lack of dependence on the Lord and our churches dependence on HIM.

Together, let us ask God to spike our realization of prayer’s importance.  Ask others to join you, and as many others as possible, to become a prayer band as the identification of God’s desire for your concern …A HOUSE OF PRAYER!

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DUMPING ENCUMBRANCES

Have ever tried swimming with a full set of clothing?  I have!  Not by choice, but as a result of being dumped off of a boat unprepared.  I cannot envision entering a race wearing all of that attire.  In fact, when we enter a race we make sure not to carry anything that would hinder our performance.

Sometime ago I wrote about Bermuda Fitted Dinghy Racing—there is nothing to equal it.  The dinghy crew is allowed to make “adjustments” in accordance with their size.  Then they can make their choice of which suite of sails they choose to use that day; 1, 2, 3, in accordance with their observance of the wind velocity.   Also, they have the option of which spinnaker they will use and the number of crew they will have on board.  Another factor is that no one has a priority on a given “tack”.  On what is an apparent collision or shallow water, there is a call for “water” and both racing vessels have to reposition their course immediately.

When the final “run” is on, and the wind is exceptionally light, they make a unique adjustment.  They can throw a crew member overboard.   Naturally, he launches himself off of the back of the dinghy, giving it an extra surge.  I have seen one man, the lightest, taking the dinghy across the line because four or five others have been ejected… un-necessary encumbrance.

When we enter the “race” that becomes ours upon the reception of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, (Hebrews 12:1-3) we are to abandon anything that would become a “hindrance”.  May I use an illustration?  When Paul wrote to Timothy, (2 Timothy) he noted that he should avoid any possibility of being a hindrance by engaging in things by which worldliness is identified.   To the church at Corinth he warned them about their conduct in the church.  To Ephesus there was how family relationships could hinder this “race” into which we have entered.  Without engaging in the “dirty dozen” that was emphasized in the past, it is obvious that we are to walk a sanctified Life.  Always remember that we serve the Lord, and are to put off anything that would lead to “questions” by the unsaved. About the dinghy race… Even the “skipper” can be useful by jumping overboard because he was determined to win the race.  The Apostle said: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me….” (2 Timothy 4:7, 8)

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A FUNERAL PROCESSION

We have conducted numerous funerals over the years, and I certainly refrain from interrupting one that is underway.  The folk involved would not be receptive to a complete stranger inserting himself into such an occasion.

The background of such a happening as this raises oodles of questions and initial reactions. (Luke 7:11-17)  The mother of a man, a widow, accompanied with a sizable crowd from the city of Nain, was buried in grief and weeping.

The Lord Jesus, upon seeing all that was taking placed, was deeply moved with compassion toward her.  He approaches her and says: “Do not weep!”  Try to envision that moment, you accompanying the body of your son being told: “Do not weep!”  Many of those present were probably thinking: “How inconsiderate!”

Not waiting for everyone’s expressions or opinions, our Savior touched the coffin; that brought the bearers to a halt.  With the simplest expression Jesus said: “Young man, I say to you, arise!” The young man sat up and began to speak.  If you think that the crowd was any different than would be the case today, forget it!  First of all they were gripped with fear!  Then when they realized what had just transpired in their presence, “they began glorifying God!”  Next they began to glorifying God and concluded that a prophet had risen among them.  “God has visited His people!

One is aware that everything of this nature was a magnanimous moment for all present.  You sort of feel like: “I wish I had been there.”

Has this story from Luke 7 brought the thought to your mind, “I could minister to that lady or a family in that situation?”  It is something that we should consider!  A card, a letter, a lunch, something personal that would show love and concern for her moment of grief. 

I throw out this story and challenge to make us more aware of an opportunity of service for the Savior.  He will be honored and you will be blessed.

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ARCHAEOLOGISTS

Those guys fascinate me!  They dig around in the dirt to find something “fascinating” to make us have a better understanding of History… people, places, things.  They get as excited about some of their “discoveries” as the guys who dug up that enormous diamond recently.

Every shovel full of dirt is scrutinized.  It seems that one who loves to do such undertakings as this would get tired of it.  Instead, every one of them goes back for more.

After you visit Israel and Egypt you can appreciate how the sand storms can bury items and places.  In fact, visiting Yuma, Arizona, and looking at the dunes that folks had to cross to get to California, and learning how they put down planks of wood to cross the desert dunes, you realize what “dreams” can do to people.  I constantly marvel at those pioneers.  They say that some of those planks are still buried in the desert.

We have had a record amount of days over 110 and 115 degrees this summer and when I got home today and got out of my air-conditioned car, and when I lived in Alaska I recall heated cars…they all do quite well under “adverse” conditions. 

Back to my thoughts about the Shepherd who lost a sheep and the lady who lost a coin. (Luke 15)  It was not the thought that “I still have 99; it was the thought one was lost.  The shepherd gets someone to watch his flock as he seeks out the ONE that was lost, and comes home with it on his shoulders, rejoicing.   The woman loses one coin of ten.  She knows it’s worth, a day’s wages, and there is housecleaning until it is found.   In both cases, there is great rejoicing over the one that is found.

Jesus did not stop at that point; He spoke of a young man who had left home and family and went out to “do his thing”.  When he returned, the Father was waiting, saw him in the distance, and with open arms welcomed him.  Great rejoicing and celebrating took place.

A shepherd with 100 sheep; a lady with ten coins; a father with two sons, one a prodigal; but it is not what they possessed, but what they had lost.

The archeologist is looking for something that has been lost to history, buried under time, a value of the past.  No value equals something or someone, no matter how insignificant it may seem.

In summation, Jesus relates it back to His Father: “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy “in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (v10)

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PRAYER

Many of us learned about prayer at our mother’s knees, and additionally beside our bed.  That act became “mighty handy” when we found our fragility in some unexpected experiences. 

That old saying: “There are no atheists in fox holes” becomes a revolutionary experience for many when the “chips are down”, as we face the unexpected and can think of no possibility of escape from that moment.

A few thoughts about prayer should prove to be refreshing for each of us as we face the dilemmas of life; whether they be physical, mental, emotional… whatever!  We have spoken previously about the armor of God and the necessity of “putting it on”.  Let us for a little further thinking do some analyzing.  What is prayer?

Prayer is adoration!  I cannot pray without acknowledging that the One to Whom I am praying is worthy and capable of my adoration.  After all, I have probably met my “wit’s end” at this point and I am “forced” to turn, with humility of heart, to the ONE and only who is worthy and possesses the possibility of hearing and answering.

Prayer is also confession!  It is an acknowledging that I have reached my limits. I not only recognize the Lord, but I want to make every object that stands between us be removed.  I seek His forgiveness so that my plea will find no obstruction.

Prayer is thanksgiving!  It is a reminder that I have not forgotten what He has done on my behalf previously, but also it is the very reason I am approaching Him again.  He is delighted that, as His child, I am sufficiently humbled to be thankful, and never just take Him for granted.

Naturally, prayer is petition!  I am beseeching Him to act on my behalf.  It does not exude He is responsible, but rather it displays my dependence that I am coming to Him because He invited me to do so.  It shows again a deeper sense of His ability and willingness to my dependency.

A final word for the moment!  Intercession!  It should be more than me, my, I, but recognition of others needs as equal to our own.  It is to reveal to Him as the One and only One on Whom I can depend; and so I plead my cause! For a reminder, I submit Romans 8:26, 27 – “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words… He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”