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THEREFORE

Few are they that have not heard the expression: “When you see a “therefore”, stop and analyze what it is there for.”

Obviously, when the word appears in Romans 2:1 it requires that I recall what was written in Romans 1, where the author begins by identifying himself as a “bond-servant of Jesus Christ”, after which he gives indication of what he is by inheritance, by training, by conversion experience, and what he has accepted as a call from God to evangelize the Gentiles.

With understanding that “call”, he immediately identifies himself and Gentiles, as equally, before God, to be recipients of the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Both Jew and Gentile are under condemnation before the Almighty!  Both have become the slaves of sin and are in need of salvation.  He says that they have “exchanged the truth of God for a lie!”  In response, “God gave them over to degrading passions”, with both man and woman “abandoning the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another.”  You are aware, as well as I, that it continues to this day!

God then gives us a list of: unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil, full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, un-trustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; then we read that those who practice such things are worthy of DEATH.

In-as-much as the practice of such things, as well as approval of those who practice such atrocity, the ultimate is God’s punishment… DEATH!

“Therefore WE have no excuse”…that judgment is justified!  Therefore, we are not only to consider the totally of the scriptures, but we are to adhere to the requirements; listen as the Holy Spirit recalls quietly what we must do according to Romans 2:4:   “the kindness of God leads you to repentance!”  There “is no partiality with God!”  “Therefore, on the day when ….God will judge the secrets of men through Jesus Christ”; will you or will you not have applied the finished work of Christ on Calvary and resurrection from the tomb to the sin of your life?

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LAZINESS

Early on a Sunday morning, before we even had our cod-fish, (A Bermuda Tradition) my father would often welcome us to lie in his bed and he would tell us stories, which he was good at doing!

One of his and our favorites was about the man who, on a Sunday morning went to put his donkey in harness, only to have the donkey say to him: “You work me all the week and you work me Sundays too”.  Naturally, he respected Sundays and solidified that point with his story.

The Book of Proverbs has numerous verses of Scripture that issues warning on laziness.  In the process of rebuking those who are too lazy to get out of their own way, we read in 26:13, 14, “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion in the road!  A lion is in the open square!  As the door turns on its hinges, so does the sluggard on his bed’.”  I guess that when I read that, I imagine that the guy who thought the reason our “doze alarms” exist on our clocks is because “just a few more minutes” justifies our laziness.  Why set it in the first place?  I know what time I have to “get in gear” to deal with the traffic on route 10 and be to work on time.

The next few verses are even more obnoxious to a lazy person.  “The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is weary of bringing it to his mouth again.  The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can give a discreet answer.”

Those of us who have had the pleasure of raising children will, on occasion, recall our little ones sitting at the table, or in a high-chair, endeavoring to eat their meal, all the while falling asleep and dropping the spoon.  That probably was not “laziness”, that was sleepiness.

My father occasionally had someone that he employed.  However, if dad failed to go and retrieve the individual on a morning, he was guaranteed not to have that individual for the day.  You are free to call that “tireditis or lazyitis”.  Agree with me or disagree with me, I have to believe that the Covid 19, thought through, is revealing a large number of people with their hand in the cookie jar, but too tired to withdraw it.

Do you enjoy being what you are, or are you one who enjoys work as your lifestyle?

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THE HEM ONLY

My friend had a pile of rocks on which he had painted places and dates he had visited.  I can imagine that after many years of living in the Navy, and being on a ship, he wanted to remember specific things about “terra firma”! 

Then there are those who are enamored with items that are from history past, and especially those related to the person of our Lord Jesus, whether it be “the shroud of Turin” or a splinter from the cross on which Jesus died.  They remain infatuated with the possibilities surrounding them.

On one occasion, when a crowd had gathered around and following Jesus, a “synagogue official” came and “fell at his feet”.  His interest was in the healing of his daughter.  However, while the crowd persisted we have a brief history of a woman who was present.  She had a sickness, a hemorrhage, for twelve years.  She had spent all her savings on physicians, without experiencing healing and had only grown worse.

“On hearing about Jesus” she thought within herself: “If I just touch His garments, I will get well.” (In another place it is said: “the hem of His garment”).  There is little to explain the difference between this woman and the “synagogue official”, only an identification of importance in people’s minds.

Jesus asked a very simple question – “Who touched My garments?”  He knew who it was, yet he allowed her to identify herself.  Naturally, the disciples immediately wanted to belittle the situation.  However, that woman, who had experienced healing knew exactly what had happened, she “fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth.”

I would guarantee that there are those who would love to have a piece of His supposed garments!  By now, it would probably be worn out from their touching it on occasion.  Who knows?

Most importantly in this record is what the Savior, Jesus, said at that very moment.  “Daughter, your faith has made you well, go in peace and be healed of your affliction.”

You do not need a “piece of His garment” but you do need faith in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ if you want healing.  While physical healing may be desired, a personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will bring spiritual healing!

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GOT TO READING

While reading through Isaiah, and arriving at the 57th Chapter, I had to stop and re-read to confirm the character of Isaiah, and the message he was presenting.  The man had to be fearless in what he delivered.

“The righteous man perishes, and no man takes it to heart; and devout men are taken away, while no one understands.”  The hearts of men are so calloused with their “doings” that the righteous man, the devout man, goes to the grave with little impact.  They might go to the funeral because of their business dealings with him, but little spiritual appreciation is recognized.  In fact, the third verse of that chapter indicates that God took him home to take him away from evil.  God saw him in the midst of corruption and in effect was saying “I am welcoming you into peace!”  It was not because of any corruption on his part, just the reward of peace and rest according to the 2nd verse.  It was in recognition of his walk in the upright way!

The picture that follows is that of ungodliness on the part of those who had little recognition toward the Godly walk of the religious zealot, the Godly man.  However, that group of individuals who are categorized as “sons of sorcerers, offspring of an adulterer and a prostitute.”  They made jest of the righteous man, “they opened wide the mouth and stick out the tongue.”  They are children of rebellion!  The picture is most vivid…Like parents, like children!

And while we view the picture, the subsequent verses give many of the details of corrupt worship and repeated rebellion.  “You were tired of the length of their road, yet you did not say, ‘It is hopeless.’  You found renewed strength, therefore you did not faint.  Of whom were you worried and fearful when you lied, and did not remember ME nor give ME a thought?  Was I not silent even for a long time so you do not fear Me?   I will declare your righteousness and your deeds, but they will not profit you.  When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you.  But the wind will carry all of them up, and a breath will take them away. (v10-13)  But he who takes refuge in Me shall inherit the land and shall possess My holy mountain.”

While the reference is not to our day directly, you would have to admit it to be a very vivid picture of the hour in which we live. 

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QUESTIONABLE MOTIVATIONS

It is not unusual for individuals to struggle through the reasoning process to clarify why we arrive at particular conclusions in given situations.  Sometimes we think, “Would I have reached a different decision if the end result was magnified previously”?  It can cause frustration, or it might solidify the reasons behind my conclusion. (John 6:22-40)

One has to wonder what went through the minds of folk present after tracking Jesus to Capernaum, and knowing that He had not left in the boat from Tiberius that carried His disciples!  However, their question is now geared to frustration of how in the world did you do this?

The next two verses of this encounter puts the rubber meeting the road: “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.”

From the natural man the question is raised: “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?”  Without hesitation Jesus said: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”  They are set on a set rule, “work”.  Jesus immediately corrects their thinking with that statement on “believe in Him whom He has sent.”  If we get that straight, all else will fall in place!  You cannot help but notice: “It is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.  For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world.” 

A summation of the rest of the verses in John 6 emphasizes the point that I have been making… It is belief in the person of Jesus Christ as God’s provider alone that will suffice for eternal life.  Jesus also said: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” (v47)

That message, repeated in many forms in the succeeding verses, should clarify for anyone so desiring to recognize that God sent Christ, the Holy Spirit “draws” an individual to a receptive  attitude of  “the Bread of Life”, who Jesus emphatically reminds them: “I am the bread of life….I am the living bread”! (48, 51)

One can think or re-think, but Jesus alone is Savior and Lord.  To embrace Him as Lord and Savior is the ONLY conclusion we can reach and know that He came to achieve our salvation and eternal life.

What think you of Christ, the LIVING BREAD?

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MILLIONAIRES AND BILLIONAIRES

Money and the lust for it has always been a problem, and to have it surface early in the establishment of the church was obviously a major hindrance to the ongoing of the ministry.  It was addressed numerous times in the Scriptures because it had a tendency to affect the attitude of believers each to the other.

We read, “For a love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.  But flee from these things, young man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” (1 Timothy 6:10, 11)

Every now and again, I encounter someone who proceeds to defend exceedingly high paid clergy, saying, “they are worth it.”   Sometimes I have been told that had these men been in the secular field they would be worth far more.  I smile, wondering if there is justification for such conduct on the part of any of us who have been called of God to preach the gospel.  Please understand that I am not suggesting that we do not need proper reimbursement for service rendered, but if it is to be judged by the secular field, I question such a position.

The Apostle Paul presents with clarity how we are to: “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and you make good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ…”  (1 Timothy 6:12-14)  It is imperative that we address this teaching with the total verses that are hinged in context.

Oh!  How the seed of greed can “justify” deed!

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DIFFICULT DAYS

The day begins with a “Good Morning” to those we encounter in those early hours!  It is not our intention to be accosted with obnoxious people or situations.  However, on occasion everything and every person appears to be ordered up negativity, and ere long you want to join the “party”; at least you feel as though this day is going to be a “total loss”!

Try this!  You are falsely accused and suddenly aware that there is an option.  You appeal to be heard by a “higher power”, to which you are entitled.  To appear before that power is possible, you must cross an ocean.  Your journey begins under “arrest”; yet, you experience “consideration” and are even allowed to visit with some of your friends.  Thus, it boosts your morale.

The journey resumes and “the winds are contrary”.  You finally arrive at a port where you are transferred to another ship to move toward the end of your journey where you will be heard in a higher court. 

You notice that this ship is moving slowly, and with difficulty, only to experience “the wind did not permit us to go farther”, but now we experienced a little “shelter”.   After considerable time we enter what can only be described as “dangerous”.

By now you are at wits end, but God gives you a vision of what to expect next.  You share it with the other folk and your guard, but the “pilot and the captain” exercise their authority, take a poll, and head for the next port, which was considered better “wintering”.    What was shared was “Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be with damage and great loss, not only the cargo and the ship, but also our lives!” 

Once again they are brought under hazardous conditions!  All types of efforts are exerted, the ship is falling apart, the cargo thrown overboard, and you are among those designated to be killed, and ultimately the ship lands on a reef.

IT IS THEN THAT GOD INTERVENES!   We read how those who could swim jumped overboard and swam for shore while the remainder grabbed “boards” and swam to shore.  All were “brought safely to land.”

So you thought you were having a bad day?  These were DAYS and DAYS in a row!

Our wonderful Lord has His eye on us in bad times and good.  Choice words of Matthew 28:20 … “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

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THE HEAVENLIES

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with ever spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3)

“which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,”  (Ephesians 1:20)

“and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in “Christ Jesus.”  (Ephesians 2:6)

“so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be make known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.”  (Ephesians 3:10)

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  (Ephesians 6:12)

The Book of Ephesians takes us from the mundane to the Heavenly.  Most of us allow ourselves to be fixated on things related to our earthly passage and forget that the eternal life, found in Christ as a person, is far more relevant… for now and for eternity.

Those in Christ as their Lord and Savior lives with eternal values in view!!!

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HIS WONDERFUL HANDS

Used with Permission by, Linda DeSilva

“What hands he must have had!” exclaimed the jockey, as he heard the story of Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem on an unbroken donkey colt. Any animal trainer will tell you, it was an amazing feat to be able to ride an unbroken donkey (that most stubborn animal) through crowds shouting hosannas at the top of their voices and waving palm branches in front of it. But, the One on that donkey was the Creator of all things. “Without Him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:3)

As the procession made its way into the city of Jerusalem, there was great excitement, and people asked: “Who can this be?” Those following Jesus answered: “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” The swelling crowds followed Jesus to the Temple. “He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and the benches of the ones who were selling doves. He told them, “The Scriptures say, ‘My house should be called a place of worship.’ But you have turned it into a place of robbers.” Now, blind and lame people came to Jesus in the Temple and He healed them. (See Matthew 21:10 – 14.) Those wonderful hands of Jesus that had also raised the dead, continued to minister to the suffering.

The Chief Priests and the teachers of the Law of Moses were angry about the exultant throng, no doubt remembering the earlier attempt to take Jesus and make Him their king! (See John 6:5 – 15.) But a conquering king rides on a prancing steed – not on a donkey, a lowly beast of burden. As Zechariah foretold (9:9) Jesus came to bring Salvation, not rebellion.

Have YOU recognized Jesus as your Saviour and Lord? Place your life today in His wonderful hands!

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A REVELATION

Have you read The Book of the Revelation to John?  I will quote some of the opening verses, which should be inspiring.  (Verses 3-8 of the New American Standard Bible)

“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne.

And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.  To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood—

And He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Behold He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him.  So it is to be Amen.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

We are promised blessing in reading…hearing…heeding!

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SHORT ARMS

Every so often I read something that I think:  “I wish I could think like that.”  That “Old Boy” of a preacher had more punch into a few words than I can think of in all of years of preaching.  Let me illustrate!

The “Old Preacher” was endeavoring to lead a man to a saving faith in Christ.  However, no matter how clearly he presented the Scriptures, the fellow had a multiplicity of answers and questions until the preacher could see that there was need for change of approach; looking at the young man he said: “Son!  Your arms are too short to box with God!”  It was successful!

There are numerous accounts of people who have battled the presentation of the gospel and its claim upon their life.  I recall so vividly my efforts toward a young woman who came to our home in complete frustration one evening.  Not a word that I uttered could penetrate her stubbornness!  I finally walked out of the study and entered our living room, sat next to my wife and began watching TV.  Suddenly, Patsy asked: “Where is Nancy?”  I replied: “Gone to hell!”  She looked at me for a sensible answer and asked for elaboration.  With that she went to the study and in a few minutes had the joy of leading Nancy to a saving faith in Jesus Christ!

Many people do not realize that they are in a fight with the Lord and that they are in a Spiritual battle.  They are losing out on the gift of salvation and the transformation that it will bring to their life.  More than arguing with God they are arguing with themselves!

In its simplest form I submit: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on Him.”  John 3:36

Have you, or if not, will you, even now, embrace Christ as your Lord and Savior?

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ARE YOU THE ONE?

In the early 50’s, before I even became a Christian, there were things in my life that took place; several of which I look back on that probably was the Lord reaching out and prepping me to respond in a very positive fashion to His calling me to Himself.   It was not dramatic, but it did influence my thinking.

As I rode to work each day, I noticed a sign erected in front of a Brethren Assembly.  It contained a combination of two verses from 1 Peter 1:18 & 19… “Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things …but with the precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”  It imbedded itself into my brain.  It had to be the work of the Holy Spirit!

A second experience presented itself from an open Bible.  A man opened a Bible Book Room in Bermuda on Church Street in Bermuda.  My route to work made it necessary that I pass that Book Room every day.  Though I confess that it was not my interest in spiritual things, (I will not talk about the other direction of my life.)  There was a Bible opened to different Scriptures daily and I took time to read it, hoping against hope that some of my friends would not catch me looking through that window reading Scripture.   As I look back, God was preparing me.  Some might suggest it as circumstantial, but to me it was God at work.)

This Blog is dedicated to that type of ministry, trusting God the Holy Spirit, to cause an individual here and there to consider Christ as their Savior and Lord.

(I must inject… That Brother in Christ became my first Bible teacher.)

If God is encouraging you toward Himself, let go and allow Him to be both Savior and Lord!

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MAPPING OUR COURSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SHEPHERD OF GRACE

Copyright by Ted Cowen

In tenderness the Shepherd sought

This sheep that’d gone astray

He followed in loves pursuit

Knowing I had lost my way

Quietly he whispered

Child, let’s head on to My home

I’ll forgive your sin, and save your soul

Thru My GRACE I will make you whole.

I listened to that voice that day

As He spoke in tender tone

Welcome to the sheepfold

From this day, you’ll never walk alone

You’ll hear my voice

My presence is your guarantee

You are my child, you’re mine by choice

Forevermore you can rejoice.

He laid down His life for me

He did it at Calvary

Forgiven of sin I was told

Forever I rest in His fold

I walk now on the mountains

In the valleys, o’er the plains

I walk now hand in hand with Jesus

He comforts in the midst of pains

I have no needs

That He will not meet

In this journey through my strife

Jesus is my Shepherd; Jesus is my Life.

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MORE REPAIRS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CLOSER HOME

Copyright Ted Cowen

I woke this morning, just before the dawn

The body felt better than did the previous morn

And so, preparing for the day that plainly lay ahead

I spoke with Jesus; He is the Living Bread.

After going through the normal preparations

I checked the headlines for sensations

Things had not changed much, since the night before

Democrats and Republicans were trying hard to score

I headed for some good old-fashioned grub,

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

Next came some pills to cure and stop the ills

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

And soon I found myself, thinking about today

My Father had created it, for work and also play

What would I do with the hours that lay ahead

I surely would not consider going back to bed.

Pondering the agenda, and thinking what must be done

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

The darkness had left; the welcomed dawn arrived,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MAGNETIC FORCE

The man watched my frustration for a few moments and then disappeared.  I had dropped a screw in the rocks and could not find it, thus causing the frustration.  (For those of you unfamiliar with it, we replace grass with decorative rock most of the time in Arizona.)  As I continued my search, he suddenly appeared with a large magnet on a string, hoping that our problem would be solved quickly.  It was!

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

A friend of mine is in the aluminum siding business.  The magnet was of no use to his crew because the magnet would not pick up the aluminum nails.  Someone else decided that I should have one and made a donation to that end.  I carry it in the truck always.  I remember well the magnets that we took out of those little generators that were attached to our bicycles and, by applying them to a bicycle tire, they would produce electricity for the lamp on our cycles.

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

Two verses of Scripture have been a blessing to me of recent.  John 6:44: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”  John 12:32: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”  A man or woman comes to Jesus for Salvation only when the Father, in and through the Holy Spirit, DRAWS him.

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

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MR. KILLDEER

As I made the turn on the light, I was attracted to a few birds that I had never seen before.  I tried to keep my attention on driving as well as observing them sufficiently to be able to study them later.  The black and white made me chuckle as I envisioned their readiness for a very “high” social event.

As I read details concerning these birds, it was obvious that I had observed a Killdeer.  I wondered why I had never observed them in that area previously.  I pass there almost daily.  I discovered that it is a plover and belongs to one of the fastest flying families in the world; further, this bird can stay in the air for hours at a time.  He stands like a sandpiper and runs amazingly fast.

What caught my attention most deeply was something written by Gusse Thomas Smith.  “I saw a Killdeer do his ‘strut dance’ once, just as daylight dimmed toward dusk.  He was all-alone, the world forgotten.  In fact I edged up very near him and stood unnoticed for fully twenty minutes.  All his motions, even his low, chuckling exultations were remarkably like those of a turkey gobbler except that his tail was not held erect but fanned straight backward or dipped downward with quivering ecstasy.  He swayed from side to side, dragging first one wing then the other.  His head kept time with his feet and he danced in every feather — bursting with the joy of being alive, not trying to impress anybody.  That’s true enthusiasm for life — dancing alone in the desert!”

Sometimes I dread asking people: “How are you?”  The answer can be long and leave me feeling as though I have been run over by a steamroller.  Morbidity seems to run in some folk’s lives.  Depression oozes out of every crevice of their personality.

For those of us who have experienced salvation, having been saved by the blood of God’s beloved Son, Jesus, the exact opposite should be the case.  Like the Killdeer, we should be: “bursting with the joy of being alive, not trying to impress anybody.”  We hear the Apostle Paul saying: “Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again I say: REJOICE!” (Philippians 4:4)  The Killdeer, “danced in every feather”.  Need I repeat that this is what needs to be demonstrated in our lives, irrespective of our circumstances?

“Enthusiasm for life” should be reflected in and through us as we go through life.  People around us should have no question about our confidence in God.  Let it be known that here is another day made by our Father and we are above ground enjoying the oxygen from every breath we breathe.  Rejoice my friend!  Rejoice in the Lord!

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MAKING MELODY

With my wife’s background in music it was assumed by most people that our children would all play the piano.  Each has their own song that they love to play and that is the extent of the piano.  They all have expressed that they probably felt that they would never measure up to her ability and thus it became a cop out for them quitting early in life.  I must say that they are all musical and this carries over to each of the grandchildren.  At family gatherings the array of participants can be quite interesting.

The youngest grandchild had decided on piano.  She was six.  Initially she decided she would play, but would not remember her notes.  Some of her masterpieces were just pieces that only she could figure out.  This time she decided she would learn her notes because Grandma finally put her foot down.

One week as she was learning some new notes and practicing, Patsy asked if she could play the song with her.  She had just discovered what her hearing had been telling her all along; for instance that G’s all sound alike, etc.  As they began to play, her face suddenly lit up.  She was beginning to see the necessity of understanding her notes and how she and Grandma could embellish the song by adding other notes, creating a far greater arrangement.  She ended up playing the ukulele.

While I enjoy music, notes on a staff are identifiable as up or down from this point to that point.  Please do not ask me to figure out how to make that transition in one step.  By the time I reach that point, the song is over.  At the same time I might say to my wife, I like that sound, or something does not sound right in that portion.  For many years she has patiently explained the problem… to no avail.

For the Christian, there is the truth that “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God”.  It came the moment we put our faith in Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives.  Accompanying that is the realization of the rest of the verse: “Many will see and fear, and will trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40:3 NASB)  Then there is the challenge of Ephesians 5:19,20: “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.”

Making melody is an enjoinment, an enjoyment, and an employment of a Spirit-filled life.

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MUSSELS

As our family sat around the table, I recall, even though we were quite young, my father saying: “I would love to have a mussel pie.”  It stayed in my mind.

Before long, we were in our rowboat roaming the bay fairly near our home when we “chanced” upon some mussels.  Remember, there was such a thing as a rowboat and we actually rowed it.  Thus, we decided to make good on the mussel pie that dad wanted.

We worked quite hard gathering the mussels and managed to get a gunnysack almost one-third full.  Sack over the shoulder, we carried the mussels about a half-mile up the hill to our home.  We were quite proud of our achievement, especially in light of the fact that none of us liked mussels except for bait when we went fishing.

When our father arrived home, with faces beaming we presented the mussels.  He looked at us, thanked us, and removing his pipe proceeded to explain that these were “sand” mussels and were too soft to be used for pies.  We now had the unpleasant task of digging a hole and burying the mussels deep enough that the dogs would not dig them up when they started to rot.  What we had done with good intention turned into a worthless effort.  Only mussels that were attached to the rocks would have had sufficient meat of the right caliber for pies.

I have been reading today in three passages of Scripture that had to do with people who had good intentions.  The first was a man who was “rich… young… a ruler”.  This fellow had high morals, a good man.  Yet, he sensed that he lacked something and so he asked Jesus, “what good thing” do I need to inherit eternal life. (Luke 18:18-34)  Jesus saw in his heart idolatry.  He worshipped money and went away sorrowful because that was more important to him than Jesus.

Two ladies who followed Jesus, Mary and Martha, had him in their home.  One was the perfect hostess, the other a perfect disciple, listening to His teaching at His feet. (Luke 10:38-42)  There are a number of lessons here; I note this one: “Mary has chosen the good part.” (verse 42)  While food was a necessity, it is obvious that she exceeded what was “necessary” and missed out on things of greater value, eternal treasures.  One may have money in the bank, but you cannot bank on that for eternity.  One writer put it “cumbered but not communing”.

The Apostle Paul said: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)  Though he had enumerated the things he saw as important in the past, they had been replaced with: “not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.” (Philippians 3:9)

Good intentions will not get one to Heaven.  You come in God’s way, through Jesus Christ, or you do not come at all.  While our intentions were good, they did not suffice.  Your intentions, if not unreservedly submitted to Jesus Christ, will leave you short of eternity with Him in heaven.  You can believe and practice what you want, but apart from God’s way, you will be left wanting.

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MOON IN MIRRORS

It was early in the morning and I was heading down Grand Avenue.  Checking traffic as usual I glanced at my rear-view mirrors.  The full moon of the night before was continuing to hover above the horizon.  Immediately my mind fell in gear to the reality that I was looking at a reflection of a reflection.  I thought a little about reflections that stand fixed in my memory.  As a child, looking from our home it was common to see boats reflecting in perfectly still water.  The Adirondack Mountains contain hundreds of lakes that are mirror-like every morning.  Crystal Caves, Bermuda is second to none when the lights are turned on and we observe the formations reflected from above.  The list is endless.

The thought that the moon was simply reflecting the sun seemed so arresting.  In turn, my mirror was reflecting the moon.  My thoughts turned to Jesus’ statement that, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NASB)  In all of the lighthouses I have visited as well as Gibbs Hill Lighthouse in Bermuda where I grew up, it was never the light that people saw but merely the reflection of that light.  Hundreds of magnifying glasses of the prisms reflect the light back into an area that projects it miles and miles to warn and welcome the seafarers.  The thought of Matthew 5:14-16 (NASB) reads: “You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck measure, but on the lamp stand and it gives light to all that are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.”

We know the One who is the Light; He is Christ.  We are light reflectors of our Christ.  Unlighted lamps are more a peril than a blessing.  It is imperative that we allow the Light whom we have invited into our life to manifest Him through us and thus encourage others to follow Him.

By now I was close to the place to which I was headed but I found myself praying, “Lord, help me to so reflect Christ that others may be attracted to Him.  Lord, if this is all of the light that others see, help it be polished in such a fashion that the Savior will be glorified and that it may attract others to Jesus.  May it not promote me, but You, Lord.  May the brightness of Your reflected light so enamor the darkened hearts of men that they will invite my Savior to be their Savior too.

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METAMORPHOSIS

I stood fascinated with the butterfly that had landed directly in front of me.  It precipitated reflection on my childhood when caterpillars would be watched with fascination until such time as a cocoon was formed and the amazing process of metamorphosis would begin.  Those days permitted the time necessary to extricate oneself from the chores of work my parents wanted performed and become the biologist I would never become.

Alas, the day would come.  The cocoon would give way to the emergence of a beautiful butterfly.  Gradually the wings would spread and finally flutter away to bedeck the landscape with color that harmonized with the rest of the surroundings.

It appears to me today that there were many more variations of butterflies when we were “kids”.  But, then I saw through the eyes of a child.

What about metamorphosis?  Is there something about this process that has a significant Spiritual application?  The process is spoken of in Romans 12:1, 2.  My life should not remain conformed to the world and its standards, but rather undergo a pattern-transforming process.  Through the mind-renewing ministry of the Holy Spirit, there emerges a philosophy of life that embraces the Holy Scriptures as authority and its teachings as appropriate for application in my life.

From the thought pattern of pleasing oneself and friends, there emerges the desire to please God.  This, of course, discloses a heart transformation… for up to that point, everything is anti-God.  “His good, pleasing, and perfect will” gives indication that God has been at work within.

For many years, the mirror in our bathroom had a butterfly in one corner.  It served as a constant reminder (as though one glance of my image in the mirror was not sufficient), that before I move too far, let me pattern my life after the Lord Jesus and thus find transformation from the desires of a sinful heart to what God’s will is for my life.

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SHEPHERD OF GRACE

Copyright by Ted Cowen

In tenderness the Shepherd sought

This sheep that’d gone astray

He followed in loves pursuit

Knowing I had lost my way

Quietly he whispered

Child, let’s head on to My home

I’ll forgive your sin, and save your soul

Thru My GRACE I will make you whole.

I listened to that voice that day

As He spoke in tender tone

Welcome to the sheepfold

From this day, you’ll never walk alone

You’ll hear my voice

My presence is your guarantee

You are my child, you’re mine by choice

Forevermore you can rejoice.

He laid down His life for me

He did it at Calvary

Forgiven of sin I was told

Forever I rest in His fold

I walk now on the mountains

In the valleys, o’er the plains

I walk now hand in hand with Jesus

He comforts in the midst of pains

I have no needs

That He will not meet

In this journey through my strife

Jesus is my Shepherd; Jesus is my Life.

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MISTIFYING

Have you ever had the privilege of sailing on the ocean beyond the horizon?  There is something very moving and fascinating about being so far removed from everything that you look in every direction and see nothing but ocean.

Since childhood, and the ensuing years, I recall being in the position of anticipating seeing “land ho!”  You know approximately where you should spot that first glimpse of land and, thus, you fix your gaze in that direction, always anticipating that you will spot it the moment it becomes visible.  My first moment was the same as those in the succeeding years.

We were approaching the island of St. Kitts in the Caribbean.  Our father pointed and said: “There you see Nevis; over here,” pointing in a little different direction, “you are looking at St. Kitts.”  I remember saying, “All I see is clouds!”  His response of, “You are not looking close enough” made me look more closely at the “cloud”.  It was taking form and gradually I was aware that my “cloud” was actually the Island of St. Kitts.

Over the years we have approached the mainland, or island, and watched the “cloud” turn to reality.  Again and again my mind has returned to the passage of Scripture located in 1 Corinthians 13:12: “Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”  The old King James said: “a cloud darkly”.  What we have is a faded picture of a reality to be actualized.  We have a blurred picture that will eventually be in focus — a hope realized when we see Jesus face to face.

Only a person submitted to the person of Jesus Christ as the substitute for his sin has this perspective as to his future.  He has the hope of a resurrection body that does not have the accompaniment of all these aches and pains, the limitations imposed by sin.  Try as we might to describe Heaven, our limitations do not avail us of that privilege.  It is a place of perfection that awaits us.  The cloudiness with which we view it will be realized one day.  At that moment, we will have been transformed into His likeness and no more restrictive clouds will be imposed upon us.

To help bring the picture into focus, read 1 Corinthians 15 on the subject of the resurrection.  Share with us your discoveries!

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AROUND THE CORNER

Copyright Ted Cowen

Life is filled with mystery

As we travel down its road

Another bend, a discovery

It is like finding the mother lode.

A person, nature, a creature

Throws your mind into gear

Gradually unfolding, a feature

Lifting your load, your care

Comparison or contrast, magnified

Others have traveled this road

Their travels gradually described

Victorious! Jesus carried the load.

Unravel the thoughts, unfolding

Puzzle pieces, begin to fall in place

A picture soon emerges, beholding

Jesus! Displayed, in all His grace!

So, why worry, why fret or despair?

When the trials arrive, petulant?

At the bend in the road, ‘No Fear’

The Savior! Jesus!  Resplendent!

Ted Cowen

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NO ANSWERING MACHINE

I dial the number, the ringing begins, and then… “Hello!  Mr. Leftagain is not available at the moment.  If you would care to leave a message he will return your call.  Wait for the tone; you will have thirty seconds to leave your name, number or message.  Thank you for calling.”

This is most interesting and most frustrating!  I dislike talking to machines as much as writing letters to computers.  More frustrating yet is to know that Mr. Leftagain may be in the immediate proximity of the machine listening to what I have to say and deciding whether or not he is going to quickly intercept my message and say: “Hello!  Ted…”  Then again, it may be a long distance call I have just wasted and when he returns it… (COLLECT), the price is doubled, thereby tripling the cost.

In the Epistle of 1 John, we discover numerous truths concerning “calling” to heaven on a direct “line” to our Father.  For instance, Chapter 1, verse 9, reads concerning our sin: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Verse 1 of Chapter 2 guarantees our “Advocate” is on call, pleading our cause immediately.  In Chapter 5, verse 15, we read: “And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.”

When calling upon the Father, I do not wonder if He is going to return my call, if He is deciding whether to interrupt my message, or if it is going to cost me triple because I spoke with Him.  I have the assurance: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee…” (Jeremiah 33:3)

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VOICE RECOGNITION

Patsy and I had finished our shopping at Costco and were about to leave, when we decided to grab a bite to eat.  She went to the Food Court to pick up the food, and I took the groceries and found a table.

As we sat munching on our goodies, we were attracted to a lady about two tables away.  She had a youngster with her, and we watched her as she let him leave, but watched intently as he meandered here and there.  He reached the food area but did not latch on to anyone.  The motherly instinct of my wife was peaking; she was concerned that he was going to get lost.

Finally, another youngster, not much older than this little one, appeared on the scene and a few words of conversation pursued.  However, they were separated as quickly as they had come together and we wondered if they were relatives; nothing indicated that this was the case.

The lady continued to bob and weave from her seat, always keeping the youngster in her line of vision even though the place was jammed with people.  Suddenly, a voice spoke from the area where the Pizza was served. “Arnold!”  Just as suddenly, the second child appeared from somewhere that he was not supposed to be, and was at his father’s side in seconds.  The first child also heard that voice, and, though he had not been summoned, sensed the tone of his Dad and decided that his meandering had come to an end.  He joined the father and child #2.  Both had identified that voice as coming from their father, and knew the authority with which it was administered.  The mother relaxed.

You’re right!  John chapter 10 came to mind.  In that precious portion of Scripture, we read the Parable of the Good Shepherd.  We arrive at the third verse and read: “To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out.  When he puts forth all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.” (verses 3, 4)  “I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know me.” (verse 14 NASB)  When the Shepherd, the Lord Jesus, calls, His sheep respond to His voice.  They arrive at His side immediately.  They know His voice!

The Lord Jesus calls to you.  He waits with tenderness toward you.  If you are one of His, you will respond in faith and obedience.  Listen closely, my friend, for that irresistible call and invite the Lord Jesus to be the Savior and Lord of your life.  Why?  “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11 NASB)

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NEW UNDERSTANDING

Many years ago, our daughter and my wife were out shopping and happened upon an individual selling “mugs” in the parking lot of a shopping center.  They decided upon one of those mugs for me as a gift.

This “wondermug” is special in a number of ways.  As soon as they saw one with a lighthouse beaming into the darkened night they naturally thought this to be appropriate…I was brought up at Gibbs Hill Lighthouse in Bermuda.  Another aspect of this mug is that when I put my hot tea or coffee into it, the entire picture changes from the darkened night and the menacing shoreline, to a day scene and sailing boats.  The beam of the light becomes sunlit skies, birds are flying and an obvious harbor effect comes into focus. The heat transformed the scene from that of danger and a warning to that of confidence, peace and enjoyment.

I seldom pick up that mug without thinking of what the “heat” can do to make a difference.  I also think of the old saying: “It takes boiling water to bring the flavor from the teabag.” Naturally, I find myself relishing the idea of what God has done in and through Christ to turn my life from night to day.

Most of us are familiar with the old saying: “Suffering is God’s megaphone in shouting to a deaf world.”  The Book of 1 Peter is addressed to a people undergoing extensive trials; their afflictions were abundant and difficulties of greater persecution stood before them.  In the 6th and 7th Verses of the first chapter Peter says: “In this you greatly rejoice, even through now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Into my teen years I often went with my father as he did his “duty” from 2.00 a.m. to sunrise.  I would sometimes sleep for a couple of hours and then shortly before sunrise he would wake me to watch the sun come over the horizon.  Nothing quite equals standing 136 feet on the veranda of the lighthouse and watching the night disappear and the day gradually arrive.  The sun, a ball and flame of orange gradually turning yellow; and shortly I was unable to look into it; the ocean changing colors to the eye and glistening revealed the “other side” of the night.

No matter the darkness that has encompassed your life, let the “blood of Jesus”, the Son, be applied to your situation, and you too will see darkness turned to light.  As “grace” is applied, so “peace” will follow. (V2)

That “wondermug” has taught me some valuable lessons.  It is a systematic reminder of the transformation that takes place in a person’s life when Jesus is allowed to enter.  Read through 1 Peter and grasp the picture of what God can bring out in your life as you experience the “heat” of opposition because of a firm stand for Jesus.  Our difficulties are refining fires to bring out the composition of our relationship in Jesus… “Christ in you, the Hope of Glory”.   He enters by invitation; He enables for sanctification; He promises glorification.

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NO SEATS AVAILABLE

I had responded to an invitation and booked a trip to Alaska that ended up falling quite close to Christmas.  However, I knew that I would be home in time for our Christmas celebration as a family, and therefore did not initially give it a lot of thought.  As the time drew near for the trip, I realized that our daughter and granddaughters would be singing at our home church on what should be the last day of my trip.  I was somewhat disappointed at not being available to hear them.

Circumstances made it possible for me to leave Alaska earlier than anticipated, and so I decided to come home.  Everyone assured me that it would be impossible to get a ticket change at that time of the year.  I decided to give it a try.

There were two people who could board my flight; I was number three.  That meant that I should be high on the list for the next flight.  I did managed to get the last cancellation on that flight, but instead of Seattle, I would fly to Salt Lake City.  I was certain there would be a good chance of a connection there.  As the third flight left, I realized the skiers were not canceling.  I plead my case to the desk clerk who replied simply: “I have you on the next flight.”  My son-in-law met me in Phoenix and, after a quick shower at their home, I arrived at the church two minutes before the service began.

That first Christmas opened the hearts of the shepherds for a great celebration.  It continues to be a time of celebration for the world in general and for believers in Christ more particularly.  It brings with it the problems of transportation during that time of the year and the frustrations that accompany the movement of people from place to place.

Joseph and Mary had to travel from Nazareth to Judea, then to the city of Bethlehem because of a decree from Caesar Augustus.  Try to envision a two hundred mile journey under the primitive conditions of that day for a woman about to deliver a baby.  The government had no consideration for such a situation.

As I read Matthew 2, I was reminded of what this trip involved and, when they finally arrived, there was “no room for them in the Inn”.  However, prophecy had to be fulfilled and the timing of their arrival was on schedule.  After all, the Son of God had to arrive on schedule. (Galatians 4:4)  I have often wondered of all that was involved on that journey and how God worked it out.

God always works out the minute details as we walk with Him.

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VAIN JANGLING

We installed a fax machine in our home office.  Before the new phone line was installed we elected to connect it to the existing phone line so that some pending business might be dispensed with on time.

Our office is quite compact with machines over, under, or against each other.  It is not, therefore, surprising that sometimes space is utilized at random and re-arranged later.

Not knowing much about fax machines at the time, nor having paid much attention to its installation, the ringing of a telephone automatically sent me to answer the ring.  The dial tone indicated it was not ringing, but the ringing persisted.  I pushed and pulled all of the cords that should have brought the cessation of such sounds, but it was to no avail.  Naturally, our son-in-law, who understands and repaired computers and such, was not at home when I called him.

It took frustration and an admission of my ignorance to walk away from that all-penetrating sound of a ringing phone.  Patsy could have easily asked to be taken out to dinner and I would gladly have allowed it to ring to itself.  However, Patsy chose to walk in the study.  Her sensitivity to sounds allowed her to distinguish that it was not the identical ring of the fax and so she looked around the machine.  Next to it was a card from my brother, advertising Pink Beach Cottage Colony in Bermuda.  It said: “When you’re looking for the best… (and as you opened it, you guessed it) give me a ring”.  It was ringing and ringing and ringing.

Confusion is the end result of listening to the many sounds that go out today – so close they are almost unidentifiable.  Paul warns that Scripture must be compared with Scripture to draw proper conclusions. (1 Timothy 1)  Other sounds are “vain jangling”. (verse 6)  Luther said it so beautifully: “Unless I am proven wrong by Scripture and Scripture alone… Here I stand.  So help me God!”

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NEW HORIZONS

Standing at the top of a lighthouse almost three hundred feet above sea level, and watching the sun inch its way up from the horizon, was a magnificent scene I’ll never forget.  Eighty plus years have passed since the days when I joined my father to view that scene time and again.

Horizons have always fascinated me, whether on land or sea.  Sometimes they seem so far away, whereas at other times, they appear to be at arm’s length.  Those that are far removed allow for the broadest perspective and the end result is that we gather much, but lose out on detail.  When the horizon is limited, we learn to focus on the immediate, the closeness.  In the process of traveling, sometimes we are climbing, and at other times we are descending.  A sharp turn and suddenly we are struggling to absorb this new horizon.

While I probably favor the more panoramic landscape, I recognize that frequently I learned the most when there was not as much to behold.  In those places, I began to explore in more detail my surroundings.  Things I had not seen before suddenly appeared.  I recognized that they had been there all along, but only the big things had caught my attention.

How about a look from a fresh perspective: “Do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not worth much more than they?  And which of you can add a single cubit to his life’s span?  And why are you anxious about clothing?  Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil or spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these.  But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith?  Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’  For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father know that you need all these things.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.  Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34 NASB)

It can be exciting to see the big things of life and forget the more important things.  A fresh look at how God wants us to see things is essential in this hour.

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YOUR OWN TICKET

She was no psychic; she was far from delusional.  There was nothing in her demeanor that threw up a red flag in my mind throughout our conversation.  She was a retired schoolteacher with very good balance in her rationale.

The story began as she said, “There is a picture of my husband.  He died about a year ago sitting there on the couch.  They made every effort to bring him back, but there was no recovering.  It was obvious; I just had to release him in accordance with his wishes.  I miss him terribly.”

“I must tell you about my dream.  I was walking in an airport… in fact, both of us.  He was young again.  He possessed all of the qualities of youth: erect, handsome, a full head of hair, and a smile as big as all outdoors.  I realized that he was not standing with me, just a little ways removed from me.  He held two tickets in his hand.  Suddenly, he turned and headed into a lighted area… it was beautiful to behold and so I tried to follow.  He disappeared into that area before I reached him.  In that moment I realized I did not have a ticket and that I would have to procure my own.  I must make it alone on my own.”

I have read on the subject of dreams and their interpretation.  Though the reading was interesting enough to finish the books, I cannot admit to being enamored with the conclusions.  She sensed that she would now be alone and would have to make it through the remainder of her life on her own.

Naturally, I was not about to let our conversation stop at this point.  Corporate and individual responsibility is as far apart as night and day.  While we are all sinners by nature and by choice, (Romans 3:23) “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”; we are individually responsible and accountable to God.  The context of the passage leads us to that 26th verse where we read: “That He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”  One must take care of his or her ticket in this sense; Jesus Christ paid for the purchase price in His death on Calvary, BUT we must take possession of it in faith.  “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” (Titus 3:5, 6 NASB)  Jesus purchased the ticket and the most that we can do is receive the ticket; His gift of salvation in Christ.

He stands with outstretched arms, saying ever so simply: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NASB)

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NORMAL CHRISTIANS

A Christian brother came to the pulpit to lead us in prayer, and as he did so, we could sense the depth of his sincerity, the burden of his heart, and the concern for the church and its membership. 

Somewhere in the middle of his prayer I heard the expression: “Lord, we don’t want to be normal Christians.”  His heart was saying something that needed to be said: Christianity as professed today has reached such a low degree that we who know and love the Lord should not allow ourselves to operate at that level.  I sensed that he felt embarrassed for our conduct as believers and that he desired that we move above that and become extraordinary.

Ordinary Christians is what we should be, but the distinctive characteristics that identified us in the establishment of the early church has been so watered down with the influence of the world, that a “normal” Christian in today’s society would appear to be abnormal.  I declare, the problem is that we so intend to prove to the non-Christians how “normal” we are that we have lost the aroma of identification with Christ.  When I was recently described as being “aggressive” with my presentation of the gospel, I prayerfully weighed the conversation and finally concluded that the Holy Spirit was ministering to them.

Can a Christian put into practice the message presented in the Sermon on the Mount without having the world conclude that he or she has “a porch light out”?  I doubt it!  Living in a manner conducive to Scriptural principles will undoubtedly formulate ideas in the world’s minds that because of our conduct, we are undeserving of a hearing.  However, is it our intent to please men, or God?  Is it probable that we are endeavoring to take over the ministry of the Holy Spirit?  The message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are not believers.  “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.’” (1 Corinthians 1:18,19 NASB)

Three times I asked an individual of his understanding of the text we were discussing.  Three times he proceeded to tell me of people he disagreed with on the interpretation of the text.  I then asked, “Should I remove that verse from the Bible, and if so, which other verses should be removed?”  Normal Christianity means developing a lifestyle that consistently conforms to Scripture and to all Biblical principles.

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TEN COMMANDMENTS

Most of you reading this title will immediately say: “I know all ten!  Why print them.  Follow me and you cannot help but notice the ten of the New Testament were not what you had expected.  I do not know who compiled the list originally, but blessing will be for us to follow the schedule suggested!

(Quotes from King James Version)

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

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

3) “Take no thought of the morrow.”  ((Matthew 6:34)

4) “Lift up your eyes and look on the fields for they are white already to harvest.”   (John 4:35)

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

6) “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  (Galatians  6:2)

7) “A New commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you.”   (John 13:4)

8) “Ye tithe, this ought ye to have done.”  (Matthew 23:23)

9) “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”  (Matthew 28: 19-20)

10) “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.”   (Matthew 24:44)

A fresh look at our entrustment!

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LOTS OF SHOES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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KNEE-MAIL

Traffic was at a “crawl”; “the good old days” of driving up Grand Avenue with one lane in each direction without much by way of interruption, has long gone.  This snail pace because of development all around us has become a gigantic problem that worsens each day.  Since boredom set in, I began reading all of the license plates, bumper stickers and window decals; one of them caught my eye: “God answers knee mail.”

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

The mind traversed more than half a century when we were kneeling to pray beside old home-made benches in the Evangelical Church in Bermuda.  In those days, Prayer Meetings were conducted on our knees.  Just as quickly, my mind went to an Evangelical United Brethren Church in Milton, PA in 1955.  I had gone there to preach.  When it came time for the “pastoral prayer” in Sunday Morning Worship, the entire congregation went to their knees to pray.  In another preaching engagement in a Pentecostal Assembly, I was asked to lead in prayer.  We all gathered at the front, on our knees, and prayed.  Each of these experiences left an indelible impression in my mind and heart.

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

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

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

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

God answers KNEE-mail!

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THE GREATEST MAN WHO EVER LIVED

by, Phillips Brooks

Here is a man who was born in a lowly manger, the child of a peasant woman.

He worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty, and then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book.  He never held an office.  He never went to college.

He never owned a house.  He never had a family.  He never traveled two            hundred miles from the place where he was born.

He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness.

He had no credentials but himself.

He had nothing to do with this world except the power of his divine manhood.

While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him.   His friends ran away.  One of them denied him.

He was turned over to his enemies.   He went through the mockery of a trial.

He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves.

His executioners gambled for the only piece of property he had on earth while he was dying – his coat.

When he was dead, he was taken down and laid in a borrowed tomb through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen centuries have come and gone. Today he is the center-piece of the human race and the leader of the column of progress. I am within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that were ever built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has THAT ONE SOLITARY LIFE.”

Might we add to that?  I think not!   HIS NAME IS JESUS!

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LOVE EPITOMIZED

Naturally when we think of this title, we reflect back on 1 Corinthians 13 and try to apply some of these principles to practical circumstances.  We might also reflect on Proverbs 31 and the wife performing her entrustment as “unto the Lord Himself”.  Love causes us to function in a manner that is contrasted with the “norm” of life.

I have the privilege of traveling in a circle of people here in Sun City and Sun City West where I see love epitomized constantly.  We have more celebrations of 50th Anniversaries and quite a few 60th anniversaries, as well as being beset by such a large number of deaths, that you cannot help but watch the practical aspect of these marriages.

I entered a home, took one look at the family, and knew what the travesty of a stroke had created.  There was only a look of love in the companion’s eye after undergoing extreme exhaustion created by a stroke in her partner’s life.  She was determined to do the job of three nurses.  She was not the first or last; I see it numerous times each week.

Tears flow from the eyes of many as they share with me the hurt they feel watching their partner deteriorate with the accompaniment of “old age”.  Given a choice in the matter, many of them would swap places.

You may have heard the story of how a news reporter’s wife, pregnant with child, sought to exchange her own life for that of her captive husband.  Love knows no bounds.

The Apostle John conveyed a message of unusual magnitude when he said in I John 5:10… “In this is love, not that we loved God, but He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  Love knows no bounds!

When we fall in love, we reach out, extending ourselves beyond the bounds of normality; we will, if necessary, die for our partner.  It is comprehensible only if we catch a glimpse of God’s love for us.  After what He did, how can we do less?

Love is epitomized in God’s love for us in Christ.  If practiced, it demands the ultimate of our life given back in love to HIM.

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LIGNUM VITAE

I have known that there was such a wood, but not much about the wood itself since I was a child.  A little prodding from a source that made no reference whatsoever to Lignum Vitae, caused me to reflect back on that childhood memory.

The trees, originally from the Antilles, is a very tight grained wood.  It is hard and makes for extra labor to give it a good finish.  Some areas of the world in which it is now produced protect it.  The tree produces a little blue flower, at least twice a year; and in particular in Florida, it has become a darling of the pot crowd.

I discovered that this wood, Lignum Vitae, means: “word of life” and that this meaning was derived because of the medicinal cures that it supposedly produced.  There are those who use it to make cabinets, and the likes.

Remembering my days in Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, in Bermuda, I recall that the wooden steps, 185 of them, were made of Lignum Vitae.  They were installed when the lighthouse was built some one hundred sixty years ago.  They have not worn out, in spite of the fact that some sixty thousand people a year walk over them.  Those are the recorded visitors.  There have always been thousands of unrecorded people traversing those steps.  With its millions of footsteps, undoubtedly they show wear, but they continue to serve efficiently.

Two passages of Scripture come to mind: Matthew 5:39 and Luke 6:29.  “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”   Both passages deal with personal relationships to others.  I have never found it hard to offer the opposite cheek to an ungodly or unsaved person.  It is far harder to respond in that fashion to one of my “brothers” in Christ.  I keep thinking that they should “know better” and should exercise more restraint in accordance with Holy Writ.  The majority of us find it awkward to be a doormat on which people can scoff their feet.  None of us relish the idea of being a “step” for another to reach the top.  If I must be a step, let me be at the top to admire the one I assisted in reaching the pinnacle of success.  That is the way we think!

Did I not mention that Lignum Vitae means “word of life”?  The medicinal quality of this wood needs to be mentioned from the standpoint that every child of God holds in his hands the medicinal cure for a sin sick world…It is The Word of Life.

Paul used that phrase in Philippians 2:16: “Holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.” (NASB)

The quality of our mettle, the grain of our wood is tested when someone “smites” us on the other cheek.  It does not take long to reveal the grain of the wood with which we are made.  Either we will show our Savior who indwells us and enables us, or we will show that wear quickly under the stress of time.

I have said it and I have written it: We actually have four cheeks…two for slapping and two for kicking. 

Lord!  Through your enablement help me to be a Lignum Vitae Christian.

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LIVING WORDS

Each day I would be in 5 to 10 different homes.  I looked for opportunities to share something about our wonderful Lord Jesus.  Prayerfully we observe the surroundings and look for a “springboard” that will allow us to step through an open door.

One day, as I entered the home of this 90-year-old lady, I noticed that she had a Living Bible and a devotional book sitting on her kitchen table.  She was deaf and so that lessened the possibility of my communication.  Nevertheless I kept a conversation going with her daughter and kept hoping that the daughter would share some of my thoughts.

I was taken back when the elderly lady began to explain to me that her stove was having problems.  The problems were such that they elicited some picturesque speech, ingrained with language unbecoming a lady or a Christian.  I gently put my finger to her lips and said simply: “A lady of your caliber does not need to use such language.  It is unbecoming of you.”  Though deaf, she knew exactly what I was saying and refrained from further vulgarity.

My heart becomes quite heavy when I hear believers using words that are out of character for a follower of Jesus Christ.  As I struggled momentarily to understand what was taking place, it dawned on me that she had a Living Bible, but the Word of God was not alive in her heart.  She had somehow been able to read the Book each day without applying a major, a very clearly defined truth, to her heart.

James in his Epistle tackles this subject and shares how the tongue needs to be bridled.  “Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?” (Read James 5)  Then there is the warning in Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.” (Colossians 4:6 NASB)

Obviously we need to learn to apply the truth of Scripture to the practical aspects of daily living.  The Living Christ needs to be allowed to live in our heart.  Jesus dealt with the Pharisees who had a similar problem.

God, tenderize my spirit to be receptive to Your Spirit.  Convict me and enable me to speak with words that are filled with the reality of the Living Word, alive in me.