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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Time is the life of the soul

                                    "Time is the life of the soul." (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Isn't that an interesting observation as it regards our life on this earth? I thought about that quote by Longfellow when I began

Isn't that an interesting observation as it regards our life on this earth? I thought about that quote by Longfellow when I began considering how to present our editorial lesson for today, the first day of 2012. TIME - where does it go? Didn't we just start this year that, all of a sudden, is ending? I think that I can easily sympathize with old Job when he said, regarding time: that it goes by "swifter than a weaver's shuttle." (Job 7:6)

I guess that it's natural for preachers, teachers and editorialists to think about the subject of time at the ending of a year and the beginning of another so that's what my thoughts will be about today. Our lesson will consist of some things that relate to the subject of "time."

The first thing I'd like to mention is a music video I watched a short time back. It was a performance of that most famous and beautiful hymn, "Amazing Grace." It was performed by a group of four tenors known as "IL DIVO." It is a most beautiful rendition of the song, but it wasn't the singing of it that makes it applicable to this lesson.

Rather, it was the location of the performance that got my editorial juices flowing. It was being performed in front of a live audience in the ruins of the Roman Coliseum. To say that their singing ability enthralled the audience would be an understatement. Think about this setting though for a moment, if you will.

A vast crowd of people, listening to and appreciating a hymn about the "amazing grace" of God, being performed by a group of singers in the arena, the location, where untold thousands died for nothing more than sport. Where professed Christians were put to death in some of the most horrible ways that the evil mind of man could dream up.

And now, about 2000 years later, one of the recognizable and emotionally provoking hymns ever written is being sung not only to an audience present there, but being broadcast around the world to untold millions. What an amazing thing for us to witness and to think about how the passing of time changes things.

Don't you see this as proving what Christ said in Matt. 16:18 about the "gates of hell" not prevailing against His church. And I can't think of a better worldly picture epitomizing the "gates of hell" than what happened in the Roman Coliseum against the followers of Christ. Think of it this way: the "Amazing Grace" of God was given to mankind in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ and He still reigns.

Continuing on with our thoughts on "time" consider this: there was a "time" when a promise was made by God that a Savior/Messiah would be coming. One that would save man from his sins. Then occurred the "time" when this Messiah did come in the flesh. A "time" when He lived, taught, died, was resurrected and ascended back to heaven. And lastly, a "time" when He'll return.

I don't know when that "time" will be and neither does anyone else. But that hasn't stopped many prognosticators over the years from predicting a certain "time" or date. They've all had one thing in common - all have been wrong

It's interesting (to me anyway) that, in making their predictions about the end of "time" and Christ's 2nd coming, they take some passages from the Bible, tie them to things said or written by uninspired men in order to arrive at their wrong conclusions. What I find interesting about this is, they obviously believe some things said in the Bible but, just as obviously, refuse to believe God's Word when it tells us that "nobody, not even Jesus Christ himself, knows when that will be." (Mt. 24:36) What an interesting antithetical way of arriving at their misconceptions.

Well, as we wrap up the old year and start out on our voyage through the new, I feel there are some things we need to consider about this coming "time." I think that first and foremost is the understanding that we don't know how much of this new year that we'll see, do we? Will it run it's entire course? Maybe. If it does, will we run the entire course with it? Again, maybe.

You see, there are some things regarding "time" for which we don't have answers. However, there are some things that we can know about "time." We know that it is short, it's passing, it's uncertain and that it's irrevocable when it's gone. And another thing we know from reading God's word is, that we are accountable to God for what portion of "time" we're given.

The passage in Rev. 22:12 says that when Christ returns he'll have our "reward" with Him and it will be bestowed on all mankind, "according to his doings." That phrase, "according to his doings," relates directly to how we use the "life of our soul." And also understand this: that the concept presented by the word "reward" is, oh lets call it, a two-way street.

A well-known hymn writer (Tillit S. Teddlie) once wrote these significant words about "time." He said that, "Yesterday is forever gone. Tomorrow may never come. Today is the day of all days." In Eph. 5:16 God, through the Apostle Paul says: "make the best use of it." I think that should lead us into our final thought about this subject of "time."

When we look back at the words of Longfellow, where he says that "time is the life of the soul," I'm reminded of a couple of scriptures that relate to our passage in Eph. 5:16, the making the best use of our soul's time, and to the picture painted by Longfellow's words. The first one is the preceding verse in Ephesians where, added to verse 16, it reads: "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil." (ESV)

Then we should look at the words of Solomon, found in Eccl. 8:5, where we're told "Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing; and a wise man's heart descerneth both time and judgment." (KJV)

If you are one to make New Year's resolutions, why not make one that says we're going to be wise in the use of the "time" that our soul is allowed. Because, when you get right down to it, this is the only "time" we have to affect the condition of our soul before it returns to God. (Eccl. 12:7)

Ron Covey

 

Begin the New Year on a solid foundation

 

    Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  Though I'm the highest paid preacher and the most sought-after speaker, and can command thousands by my great oratory skills, if I have not love, in the ears of God, my voice sounds like a baseball bat striking an empty metal bucket.

 

            And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.  Even if I could predict with precision events of the future; and though there was not a single mystery that I could not solve, nor was there any question that I could not answer; and though I could accomplish great feats with my positive leadership skills, if I have not love, I am nothing.

 

            And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profits me nothing.  Though I empty my bank account and sell everything I have to buy food for the poor, and even if I become a martyr for my cause, if I have not love, it profits me zero.

 

            Love suffers long;  Love is kind;  Love does not envy;  Love does not vaunt itself;  Love is not arrogant;  Love does not behave rudely;  Love does not always demand its own way;  Love is not easily provoked; Love does not keep a scorecard of wrongs;  Love rejoices in Truth, not iniquity.  

 

            Love never gives up;  Love is always hopeful, and Love endures through every circumstance.

 

            Love never fails, it never quits, and is everlasting because God is Love and God is everlasting.

 

            And now abides Faith, Hope, and Love, these three, but the greatest of these is Love.  Faith will cease when we see Him (Hebrews 11:1);  Hope will cease when we receive what we hope for (Romans 8:24), but Love is eternal;  that's why "the greatest of these is Love."

 

            Begin the New Year on a solid foundation.  Learn of God by studying your Bible.  The more you know God, the more you will Love Him.

                                                                                               

--Toby Miller

Committee to Save Merry Christmas

 

     I'm sure you've heard a lot of talk about the fact that some retailers seem to be getting away from saying "Merry Christmas!" and instead are substituting phrases like "Season's Greetings!" or "Happy Holidays!" in their decorations and their advertisements.  Someone has even written this politically correct Christmas greeting:

     "Best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most joyous traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, but with respect for the religious persuasion of others who choose to practice their own religion as well as those who choose not to practice a religion at all."

     Many Christians are outraged at this shift and view this as one more attempt to remove all references to Christ from our culture.  In response, a group has been organized called the "Committee to Save Merry Christmas".  Here are some of their thoughts:

     "This deliberate and intentional substitution of 'Merry Christmas" with un-celebratory phrases are thoughtless, condescending and hurtful.  Should you -- the purchasing public -- who honors the American tradition and culture of Christmas, continue to purchase Christmas gifts from these stores when they deliberately and intentionally refuse to acknowledge Christmas? Our committee believes you should not!  We, instead, encourage you to shop where the values and meaning of Christmas are cherished."

     I have some concerns.  On the one hand, I am concerned about attempts (sometimes blatant attempts) to remove all references to God or Christianity from our society.  But, on the other hand, I have to remember that God did not give Sears (or any other store) the responsibility of telling people about Christ.  He did not give our American government that responsibility.  He gave it to those of us who are Christians.

     I think it's ironic that a lot of Christians are upset that Target doesn't greet them with "Merry Christmas!" when they walk through the door, but they will make no attempt to talk about Christ in their own lives.  We prefer to say "It's a beautiful day!" instead of "What a beautiful day God has given us!"  We prefer to say, "I've been lucky or fortunate" instead of saying "God has blessed me."  We would never dream of saying "Christ is the only way of salvation." for fear of being labeled a fanatic.  But then we'll get upset at a store which has a banner proclaiming "Happy Holidays" and refuse to do business with them.

     Folks, let put the responsibility where it belongs.  God has given those of us who are Christians the task of sharing Christ with a world that doesn't know him.  God "has given us the ministry of reconciliation...and has committed to us the word of reconciliation." (2 Cor. 5:18-19).  If we're going to get upset, let's start getting upset about the fact that WE'VE not been doing that like we should!

Alan Smith

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What is a watershed?

In recent years I've noticed a new signs along Interstate highways that announce
entry into a particular watershed.  For many this will be a mystery; what in the
world is a "watershed"?  The web site for the Environmental Protection Agency
gives this definition: "A watershed is the area of land where all of the water
that is under it or drains off of it goes into the same place."

Waterways have been significant in determining locations of new settlements in
our country.  Water is one of the most essential resources for human sustenance,
as well as transportation and agriculture.  Look at a U.S. map and note how many
cities are situated on the banks of major rivers or at ocean ports.  People need
water, and they naturally settle where they can find it in abundance.

Not surprisingly, the word has become a metaphor as well.  A "watershed event"
is one which changes the course of things afterward.  The signing of the
Declaration of Independence changed the loyalties of colonists of the New World.
The Emancipation Proclamation forever changed the way in which some in the
United States viewed their fellowman as mere property.

An interesting list, found at http://listverse.com/2010/08/28/top-10-watershed-
moments-in-history/, states the top 10 watershed events in human history.  Some
of the events I might have predicted: the invention of the printing press and
the development of the smallpox vaccine.  Other items on the list remind me that
I'm not as well-versed in world history as I need to be.

I was pleased, however, to see the number one item on the list of watershed
moments in human history: the birth of Jesus Christ.  A quick glance at our
calendars will affirm this claim: this is the year 2011, AD ("in the year of our
Lord").  All years before AD years were BC ("before Christ") years.
(Regrettably, there are strong efforts to change those designations from AD to
CE ("common era") and BC to BCE ("before common era").)

The coming of Christ means that God's grace has been shed abundantly upon
mankind.  Paul stressed that fact in Titus 2:11: "For the grace of God that
brings salvation has appeared to all men."  No one is left out of the
opportunity; any who wish may come to Christ for salvation.

But there's more to Paul's statement that needs to also be understood: "Teaching
us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly,
righteously, and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:12).  Jesus' appearance on
earth continues to amaze us.  But let us not fail to grasp the reason for His
coming: to lead us out of the darkness of sin to the light of righteousness.

John used this image of light when speaking of Jesus coming to earth: "That was
the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world" (John 1:9).
Later in John's gospel, Jesus used a different metaphor: "He who believes in Me,
as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water"
(John 7:38).

There's the watershed we've been looking for!  Jesus, the Water of Life, can
give us what our souls need most.  As settlers of old who set up their camps
beside flowing rivers, let us pitch our lives beside the ever-flowing living
water.  In that way alone will we find everlasting, satisfying life!

Timothy D. Hall

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Peace on Earth

 

          How many times will Luke 2:8ff be read or quoted this month? Perhaps we especially like verse 14: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased" (NASV). I can't read this passage without picturing Linus on stage quoting these verses. Isaiah pictured the reign of the Messiah as one of peace, for those who would "walk in His paths" (Isa. 2:3-4).

 

          It is easy to have peace among those who submit to the Lord's rule. But what about "peace on earth" between those who follow the Prince of Peace and those who do not? Paul wrote in Romans 12:18: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." How can we have peace with those who do not submit to the kingdom of Christ?

 

          Here are some ideas... Speak gently with them. "A soft answer turns away wrath" (Proverbs 15:1)."Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person" (Colossians 4:6).

 

           Second, try to understand them. Seek first to understand. Then, to be understood. Proverbs 25:12 says, "Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear." Third, be patient. Jesus says, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" and Paul tells us that "Love is patient and kind" (Matthew 5:44 and 1 Corinthians 13:4).

 

          Fourth, apologize for any misunderstanding or error on your part. That follows from speaking gently and trying to understand. Humility requires us to do such. "For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation" (Psalm 149:4). Fifth, control your reaction. This is one of the hardest, perhaps. Control your tongue. Control your thoughts. Control your actions. "A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls" (Proverbs 25:28).

 

          Finally, always entrust your life, your happiness, your future into the hands of your loving Father in heaven.  You may get slighted here on earth. But God will take care of you forever. "Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good" (1 Peter 4:19).

 

          "Strive for peace with everyone" (Hebrews 12:14).

 

--Paul Holland

Monday, December 19, 2011

What is reconciliation?

There are certain words in the Bible that astound the mind and thrill the heart.  Words like "redemption," "forgiveness," "grace," and "salvation" are among those words.  The worldly minded can never appreciate the magnitude nor the depth of those words as they relate to matters eternal.   But those who have been rescued from the bondage of sin have an appreciation that cannot be expressed in words.   The word "reconciliation" is another word that falls into that category.   It is not a difficult word, nor is it hard to understand.   Webster defines the word "reconciliation" as meaning "to restore to friendship or harmony, to settle or resolve." When applied to people it means to get two separated people back together again.  It may refer to a husband who wants to be reconciled to his wife, or a father who wants to be reconciled to a wayward son.  But when we use the word to refer to a sinner who wants to be reconciled to God we have come upon the richest use of the word in all of human language.   Reconciliation occurs when sinners are brought into a state of favor with God.   You may speak of material blessings, abundance of riches, or great and abundant possession in this life.  But when you talk about reconciliation with God you have exhausted the meaning of what it means to be blessed.   

 

While it is not difficult to understand the meaning of the word, it may be difficult to put reconciliation into practice, so far as human relations are concerned.   It can be difficult, and even sometimes impossible, to get two family members who are at odds with one another to be reconciled to each other.   Alan Smith shared this humorous story with his readers some years ago:  A man once went to a preacher because he was having some family problems.  He wasn't a very well-educated man and sometimes got his words confused. He said, "Me and my wife need a re-cancellation."  What he meant to say was reconciliation, but the word re-cancellation wasn't a bad choice. Because there can be peace for those who have been separated only when sin has been canceled. As sinners before a righteous God, we need a "re-cancellation".  And that's exactly what Jesus made available when he died on the cross (Alan Smith, www.TFTD-online.com).   

 

Our English words "reconcile," "reconciled," or "reconciliation" appear ten times in the New Testament (Matt. 5:24, Rom. 5:10, 1 Cor. 7:11, 2 Cor. 5:18, 5:19, 5:20, Eph. 2:16, Col 1:20, 1:21, and Heb. 2:17).   Some of these passages speak of reconciliation between two human individuals; some speak of God's act of reconciling the lost to Himself; and some speak of man's responsibility to "be reconciled" to God.   It is 2 Corinthians 5:18 that I want to focus our attention on for this article:  "But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation" (emphasis mine, TW).  Let us notice the following truths relative to reconciliation as presented in this passage.

 

First, Paul speaks of the ministry of reconciliation.  The very focus of our labors in the kingdom is that of reconciling men to God.   So often we lose sight of our purpose as the body of Christ.  God has given unto us the task of saving the souls of men.  This should be the focus of our labors in all that we do.  If we manage to encourage one another, to uplift the body, or organize and conduct a dozen or more fellowship meals each year, but neglect the salvation of the souls of men we have not accomplished what God wants us to accomplish.  Ours is not a ministry to improve the physical man, maintain a soup kitchen, cloth the naked, pay electric bills, water bills, or stock and operate a pantry for the homeless.  Paul clearly points out that God has given us the ministry of reconciliation.  Our task is to save the souls of men. If we neglect that part of our work as the body of Christ, nothing else really matters. 

 

Second, Paul sets forth the terms of reconciliation.  "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature" (5:17).   In another passage Paul tells us that we are reconciled unto God "in one body…through the cross" (Eph. 2:16).  The important word in both of these passages contains only two letters. It is the word "in."   It is IN Christ that we are reconciled to God; it is IN Christ that we become a new creature; it is IN Christ that men come to have salvation.  If we are to fulfill the "ministry of reconciliation" we must be about telling men how to get INTO Christ.   If we do not fulfill that responsibility, then it will not get done.  The religious world does not teach the truth on this matter and men in general have no idea as to how to get INTO Christ!   When Paul told the Romans that they were baptized "into Christ" (Rom. 6:3-5), and the Galatians that those who are baptized "into Christ" did put on Christ (Gal. 3:27) he forever settled the question as to the importance of baptism in God's scheme of redemption. 

 

Third, Paul sets forth the results of reconciliation.  "Wherefore if any man is in Christ he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new" (5:17).  Love of the world gives way to the love of God and Jesus; old views are replaced by new ones; new aims take the place of worldly goals; treasures are laid up in heaven rather than upon the earth.  A man once said that since he had become a Christian that all things had NOT become new because he still had the same wife, and same old sun shone every morning.  That man missed the thrust of Paul's words.  All things have become new in that the new creature no longer lives unto himself, but unto Him Who died for him (2 Cor. 5:15). 

 

Fourth, Paul tells us about the method of reconciliation.  "Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. 5:21).  If a man is estranged from his wife, he might be able to bring about reconciliation with some flowers and a large dose of humility.  But when man sins against God, his "iniquities" will hide God's face from him, and separate him from his Father in heaven.  All the flowers in the world cannot atone for sin.  We were not purchased with "corruptible things, with silver or gold, from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers; but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ" (1 Pet. 1:18-19).   The vicarious suffering of our Lord is the method by which God would save man.  Thus, as the innocent suffered for the guilty, suffering what sin deserved to suffer, God could be just and the justifier of them that believe (Rom. 3:26).  Voluntary substitution is in perfect harmony with justice, provided every step is voluntary - the substitute in offering, the government in allowing, and the criminal in accepting.   Seeing that none of us have it within our power to pay the price for our sins, the very offer from the eternal God of grace to provide a substitute should drive us to our knees in grateful appreciation for this method of reconciliation!  C.C. Crawford once wrote:

 

This principle of vicarious suffering is the foundation upon which civilization has been built - in fact upon which all society has been built, civilized or uncivilized. It is also the essential principle of human progress towards that one, far-off event, towards which the whole creation moves.  Not so many years ago there went forth from our homes thousands of fine young men. They crossed the rolling deep and pitched their tents on Flanders fields and in the valleys of the Argonne.  When they started out, many thought it would be a lark.  But the poetry of war soon vanished, and nothing was left but the prose.  They lived in dug-outs.  They marched and ate and slept in mud. They rushed into living hells. They had ribs fractured, eyes put out, lungs filled with gas, limbs shot away. Thousand cried for water as they lay dying on the battlefields, and received it not.  They were cold and weary and homesick. No one but Almighty God knows the length and breadth and depth of the awful anguish and suffering of those who fought, bled and died on those European battlefields.  Why did fathers leave their homes and go to the front?  Why did young men, postponing the day of marriage, press the last, long, lingering kisses upon the lips of the sweethearts, and then rush away into war with its uncertain future?  I am still convinced that they died for a principle. I refuse to believe that it was all in vain - that a sacrifice is ever in vain.  There may have been greed, graft and corruption mixed up with all of it, but there was nobility, too!  Autocracy had to be overthrown, lest our own wives and daughters might have to suffer what the innocent women and children of Belgium and France suffered. The war had its sordid side, of course; but surely all this bloodshed was not meaningless!  A thousand times; yea, ten thousand times - no!  I still believe that these men suffered to advance the cause of democracy and freedom. As for me I glory in the crimson line.  I am thrilled when I read its suggestive meaning in the cup of the Lord's Supper. I am moved with an unexplainable ecstasy when I see the ancient altars dripping with the blood of the slain lambs.  Now I understand why the destroying angel who passed over Egypt at the hour of midnight, passed over those houses where the blood was sprinkled on the door-post. Now, I know to whom Isaiah refers, when he writes of One "in red apparel coming in dyed garments"; whom John the Revelator refers to, when he describes that heavenly chieftain whose vesture was dipped in blood; what Simon Peter means when he writes of that precious blood which cleanseth from all sin; and what the writer of our text has in mind when he declares that "apart from shedding of blood there is no remission."  I want to say to you, with all the power of emphasis and persuasion of which I am capable, that by the precious blood of Jesus you will be saved, or you will never be saved at all.  In all ages God has never pardoned a single sin-sick soul except on the merits of our Savior's precious blood, and He never will.  That lonely hill back of Jerusalem was the battleground of which the Prince of heaven fought with the powers of darkness, and won.  There God turned an evil thing into a channel of blessing.  There, Sin, in slaying the Son of God, slew itself.

 

Beloved, if mere men are willing to suffer for the betterment of mankind, how grateful that our Lord was willing to suffer and die for us.  How wonderful, indeed, is the ministry of reconciliation that has been placed in our hands! 

 

--by Tom Wacaster

 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Working With Jell-O

 

 

Senator John Boehner used this analogy some months back when referring to attempts to "negotiate" with the President and his staff in matters concerning the economy, taxes, and balancing the budget.   More precisely the Speaker of the House pointed out, "Dealing with them the last couple months has been like dealing with Jell-o," Boehner said. "Some days it's firmer than others. Sometimes it's like they've left it out over night."   I have been preaching for almost four decades now, and I can attest to the frustration that comes with trying to reason with folks in a logical, analytical manner.   Some folks simply cannot be taught; not because they are incapable of receiving the facts, but because they have become so close-minded that the truth cannot penetrate their thick skull.  Pride and selfishness play an important role in hardening the heart and closing the mind to truth.   It is even possible for a person to so harden his heart that he no longer loves the truth (2 Thess. 2:10).  When a man reaches that point in his life, "God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thess. 2:11-12). Frankly, that frightens me!  

 

 I used to say that reasoning with some folks is like trying to wrestle with an octopus - about the time you get hold of one arm in an attempt to tie the creature down, another one grabs you from an altogether different direction.   Liberalism has a way of avoiding truth while making you think it is addressing the issue.  Politicians are good at this.   If you have some time to waste, tune in to CNN or C-SPAN and listen to the news conferences with any of our leading politicians on any issue whatsoever.    Try to pin a politician down on any issue and you will quickly learn that it really is like trying to work with Jell-O.    You might take a moment to tune in to one of many talk show programs.  It is astounding how a liberal can call in, be asked a simple "yes" or "no" question by the host, and in an attempt to answer the question actually avoid the question all together!   Every attempt to press the point of the discussion is like - well, like working with Jell-O!

 

Liberals in politics have their counterpart in the sphere of religion.  Trying to reason with purveyors of false doctrine is like working with Jell-O; you can't pin them down on any single issue, and simple "yes" or "no" questions are avoided like the plague!  I have had opportunity to conduct two public debates in more than forty years of preaching.  One thing I have learned from those debates is the inability (or unwillingness) of my opponent to stay with the subject.   It is like working with Jell-O, and most of the time it is Jell-O it its liquefied state!   Reason flies out the window, emotion takes hold of the disputant, and you end up chasing rabbits more than addressing the subject at hand.  It can be frustrating! 

 

This week I had the opportunity to discuss a religious matter with someone I met while eating breakfast at Whataburger.  I have learned from practical experience that "arguing" with someone over a religious topic accomplishes little.   So, when I come across a prospective student, I attempt to get an appointment to come into their home and have an open Bible study.  This will provide opportunity for the student to see what the Bible teaches, rather than listen to what I might think on the matter.    On this particular occasion I asked the question, "Why do you suppose there are so many strange churches popping up everywhere?"   Rather than address my question, he took the same kind of approach a politician might take on a sticky issue, and commenced to discuss how his fiancĂ© has some really "weird" ideas about religion.  When I asked him what might motivate a person to pursue such radical and far-fetched ideas, he asked if I believed in prophets today.  Attempting to keep him on the subject and move toward an in-home Bible study, I asked if he would like to see what the Bible had to say on the matter.  He changed the subject again - this time he wanted to discuss the unreasonableness of some women when it comes to having a normal conversation on husband and wife responsibilities.  I felt like I was trying to work with Jell-O.    It was difficult (if not impossible) to pin him down on any single point, and our conversation ended with an invitation to visit our worship assembly or public Bible study opportunities.   As expected, there was no definite commitment, but the typical response, "I might just do that someday!"    "Someday" - but then that's a topic for another discussion. 

 

Some weeks back I watched a portion of Walt Disney's "Alice In Wonderland."  It reminded me, in an amusing way, of how illogical some folks can be.   Some years ago Jefferson Airplane produced a song titled, "White Rabbit" - a definite reference to Alice in Wonderland and the complete lack of logic demonstrated in the story.  The last stanza of the song is thought provoking:

 

"When logic and proportion

Have fallen sloppy dead

And the White Knight is talking backwards

And the Red Queen's "off with her head!"

Remember what the dormouse said;

'Keep YOUR HEAD'"

 

Next time you are in a discussion with someone who cannot seem to stay on the subject, "keep your head," and remember - trying to reason with some people is like working with Jell-O!

By Tom Wacaster

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

ASK YOUR "DOCTOR" ABOUT PROGRESSIVOR TODAY

 

Are you tired of walking in "the strait and narrow way"?  Are you finding that to "abide in the doctrine of Christ" is too restrictive?  Does the mere mention of "the old paths" make you nauseated or send you into fits of rage against "antiquated thinking"?  Are you finding it dull and boring to do all "in the name of the Lord Jesus"?  Would you like to be able to enjoy greater freedom and more flexibility in your moral life . . . to loosen up and have more fun?  Would you like to enjoy a more entertaining atmosphere in worship (whenever you may decide to attend worship)?  Would you like to have a more broadminded and inclusive attitude toward the different religious beliefs and viewpoints that are out there in today's world?  Then ask your D.D. ("Doctor of Divinity"), pastor, preacher, or priest about Progressivor.  This medication has been on the market for several years, and has helped many to a more carefree, less restrictive religious life.  It also is available in a generic brand known as Liberaluce.   

 

This drug has worked wonders in the lives of thousands.  It has enabled people to throw off old fogy moral values and to enjoy a wide range of sexual pleasures, including sex before marriage, sex outside of marriage, sex with others although married, sex with those of the same gender, as well as a variety of other sexual activities (whatever floats your boat).  It permits a person to divorce and remarry as often as he or she chooses to do so, and for whatever reason is convenient, or simply to live together without being married at all.  In short, it allows a person to be religious without having to be righteous. 

 

Regular doses of Progressivor have proven to broaden one's tolerance of all kinds of religion, including Hinduism, Shintoism, Buddhism, Islam, Secularism, "New Age-ism," as well as the various "brands" of Christianity.  Progressivor aids in the adoption of a "salad bar" type of religion which allows one to pick and choose bits and pieces from various religious traditions and to reject those parts that do not meet with one's own wisdom and approval.  Progressivor immunes one from strict adherence to the Bible because the developers of Progressivor have determined that the Bible is wrong about many things.

 

Progressivor allows for entertaining worship services that really resonate and "rock" in today's culture.  Guitars, banjos, fiddles, saxophones, trumpets, and percussions are all allowed.  Just sit back and enjoy the show.  There is no charge for admission.  At some point a plate or basket may be passed through the audience and you will be invited to "pay," but you should feel free to "pay" only what you feel like "paying."  ("Church" really can turn out to be a rather cheap way to enjoy some good entertainment).   And the program is likely to feature a very entertaining speaker (either man or woman) who is able to deliver "one liners" as well  as (or better than)  any late night TV host you have ever heard.  In short, Progressivor is a modern religious "wonder drug."  Be sure to ask your "Doctor" about it today.

 

Potential harmful side effects of Progressivor include blurred vision, resulting in not being able to see at any distance.  Total spiritual blindness has been known to occur in some cases.   Progressivor is also known to result in  deterioration of the backbone,  weak knees, indistinct and misleading speech patterns, confused thinking, and ultimately eternal death (Romans 6:23).  Be sure to check with your "Doctor" before taking Progressivor.  Depending upon his view of God, the Scriptures, religion, and life in general, as well as his respect for the Great Physician, he may or may not recommend it.  Progressivor is not for those who want to please God and live forever with Him in heaven.  But for those who do not believe in either Heaven or Hell, or who believe in the former but not in the latter, Progressivor may be just the religious medication you have been looking for.

 

Hugh Fulford

 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tis the Season for Fools

 

          Have you seen or heard of the billboard in New York and other places, put up by American Atheists? It has wise men traveling toward a manger beneath a star. It reads: "You KNOW it's a MYTH. This season, celebrate reason." The American Atheists have been "celebrating reason" since 1963. Apparently before that, they were fools too...?

 

          Christmas and Easter are the seasons for the fools to come out of the proverbial wood-works.  Not the ones who are celebrating Christ's birthday - although it's safe to say that God is not concerned that we celebrate the birth of Christ. If He was, He would have told us to celebrate it. We ought not to do God's thinking for Him nor think that we can "out-spiritual" God by creating celebrations, for His sake, that He did not command.

 

          Having said that, the incarnation is at the heart of Christianity. Contrary to the beliefs of certain religious groups like the Muslims and Jehovah's Witnesses, if God did not become flesh, there could be no salvation. It's only because of the incarnation that we have a perfect sacrifice for our sins.

 

          No, the fools to which I refer are those who incessantly attack Christians for believing that this world didn't happen by accident or for believing that - yes - Jesus was born without a physical/human father and yes - He did raise from the dead.

 

          I'm referring to fools like Dr. Stephen J. Hawking - professor of physics at Cambridge University and best-selling author.  His most recent work, The Grand Design, purports to show that the universe could have come into existence by itself.  What?  That is a totally stupid idea.  How could anything produce itself? Where did the energy come from that produced the thing in the first place?

 

          Perhaps you've heard about the billboard above - Celebrate reason this season.  Yes - please! It is reasonable to believe that either mind is eternal or matter is eternal.  Hawking does not believe the latter; why can't he see the former?

 

          "The fool as said in his heart, 'There is no God'" (Psalm 14:1).

 

-Paul Holland

Friday, December 2, 2011

I'm Losing Control of the World"

             Perhaps the quintessential Thanksgiving cartoon is Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving. It's the episode when Peppermint Patty invites herself and Marcie and Franklin over to Charlie Brown's for Thanksgiving dinner. You probably watched the episode. Charlie Brown - because he's "so wishy-washy" in the words of sister Sally - can't tell Peppermint Patty "No." They're supposed to be at their grandmother's for Thanksgiving; they won't even be home.

 

            At one point in his conversations with Peppermint Patty, Charlie Brown hangs up the phone and laments, "I feel like I'm losing control of the whole world." Do you ever feel like that? Have you ever felt like you are not in control of anything? Sometimes we feel like we're not even in control of ourselves.

 

            The great thing is - the liberating thing is - we are not in control. I cannot control anybody except myself. The deception many people fall into is that they believe they can't even control themselves. That is decidedly false. On the other hand, we do not control the world nor anything in it - except ourselves.

 

            The great thing is that God is in control.  He always does what is right. He always does what is best. He always does what is the good for us, His children. That is liberating and ought to make life much more worry-free.

 

            In the following verse, meditate on what God says about Himself and what He tells Abraham to do: "When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless" (Genesis 17:1).

 

--Paul Holland

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Is Jesus the reason for the season?

One of the often seen quotes at this time of the year is, "Jesus is the
reason for the season." Of course that is in reference to the coming
Christmas Holiday. I realize that for a lot of folks that is a very true
statement. The question is, should it be that way?

What makes the month of December any more holy or inspiring than any other
time of the year. Samuel Johnson wrote this about this season: "(We as a
people or) the Church does not superstitiously observe days, merely as days,
but as memorials of important facts (or events). Christmas might be kept as
well upon one day of the year as another; but (I feel) there should be a
stated day for commemorating the birth of our Saviour, because there is
danger that what may be done on any day, will be neglected."

Are we in danger of neglecting remembering the day of the birth of Jesus?
Well, in all honesty you have to admit that the church we read about in the
bible never celebrated that day. Was it a momentous occasion? Absolutely! It
received a detailed description of the day in the gospels. The problem as I
see it is not the keeping of Christmas, but remembering Jesus every day.

Our daughter-in-law Mylinda shared these words of wisdom from our adorable 4
year old grand daughter Allison: One morning Allison told her mom: "Jesus
lives in your heart. That's where I keep MY Jesus, in my heart, all day
long!"

You see, too some Jesus is the reason for this particular season; yet those
with more insight realize that Jesus is the reason for EVERY season. My
prayer is that like that 4 year old little girl; I can keep Jesus in MY
heart all day long. Not just this season or this month or on the 25th of
December, but every day.

From now on, whenever I hear the phrase, "Jesus is the reason for the
season," I'm going to try to respond, "No, Jesus is the reason for every
season, "because I have him right here in my heart all day long.

Russ Lawson

Monday, November 28, 2011

The book special someone

I've been rereading a book that about a year ago my daughter-in-law and son
gave to me. Looking back on it I figure they are making a statement about
me, and they may not be far off the mark. The title of the book is, "When
I'm on old coot, witticisms for people who refuse to grow old gracefully." I
got to thinking about that and thought I'd do a little research. Just in
case you are not familiar with the word, "coot," it is defined in this way:
"a harmless simple minded person," Used in this way, "Don't mind him, he's
just a crazy old coot." (Webster's Dictionary)

Humm, makes me begin to rethink the nature of the gift? No, really, I know
it was just a gift that was given in fun, I think! Actually, I know why they
thought of me with a book with this title. It is because I don't usually
make the expected decisions or the do the things that "folks of my age," are
normally expected to do. I know that more than one person has thought my
decision may at the least be questionable (by accepted, safe, comfortable
standards).

I also got to thinking about the word, "gracefully." It is defined as:
"pleasing or attractive in line, proportion, movements or actions." Humm,
again not me! I don't fit into any of those categories.

So, let me see if I understand this: I'm an old crazy person who is not
always pleasing or attractive in my actions. Probably a few of you can
identify with me in these things (or not). The truth is, I don't mind being
different (if you hadn't guessed), but especially I don't mind being
different from the world, seen as crazy, don't fit in, not pleasing or
acceptable in my attitudes or actions to the worlds views. If fact, that is
even biblical!

Take a look at what Peter wrote to Christians in 1 Peter 4:3-6: "You have
had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy, their
immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and
their terrible worship of idols. Of course, your former friends will think
you are crazy when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and
destructive things they do. So they'll call you a crazy old coot or simple
minded. But remember that they will have to face God, who will judge
everyone, both the living and the dead. That is why the Good News was
preached to those who are now dead, so although they were destined to die
like all people, they now live forever with God in the Spirit." (Paraphrase
by R.L.)

Forgive my taking a few liberties with the scripture, but I believe it
contains the thoughts of the original message. As I said I don't mind being
different from those around me, when it comes to pleasing God. What about
you?

Russ Lawson, Messages From The Heart

In case you are wondering where to get this book for your "special someone,"
you can find it at www.gibbs-smith.com

Russ Lawson

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bulletin article for Thanksgiving

You know the story of that very first Thanksgiving Day in the English
colonies, right? You know, the one where Captain John Woodlief and those 38
colonists who had just had arrived in the Virginia colonies from Berkeley,
England and set aside a day of giving thanks to God at the Berekley Hundred
(later renamed Berkley Plantation) on December 4, 1619 where Woodlief
proclaimed--

"Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrivall at the place assigned
for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept
holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God."

Oh, you haven't heard that story? That because those Johnny-come-lately
Pilgrims from Massachusetts arrived at Plymouth Rock with a publicist, so
that now everyone just "knows' that the first Thanksgiving was in
Massachusetts with the Pilgrims after the whole colony almost froze to death
following that first bitter winter in 1622. But the very FIRST Thanksgiving
Day was in Virginia. OK, so actually the first Thanksgiving in the New World
was one led by Spanish explorer Juan de Onate held one near El Paso, Texas
in 1598, but that one doesn't count because it was in Texas! They probably
had chili and burritos and guacamole or something (actually, that sounds
pretty good).

At any rate, the idea of a Thanksgiving Day was not held as a "perpetual"
celebration in either Massachusetts or Virginia. Thanksgiving Day was never
more than a local and sporadic event until until Abraham Lincoln made it an
annual national holiday observance in 1863. Which means that "first"
thanksgiving in Massachusetts took place after a bitter winter almost
destroyed a whole colony and the first national Thanksgiving Day was
observed DURING the tragedy of the Civil War that almost destroyed our
nation. We still observe Thanksgiving Day, but it has little to do with
struggle and more to do with eating ourselves silly and then complaining
about how stuffed we feel!

But that's not the real problem with Thanksgiving. The real problem is that
we set aside this one day to reflect on and give thanks for our blessings
(in which we overindulge) and then ONE DAY later. we rush out for "Black
Friday," the biggest shopping day of the year. We forget all about
Thanksgiving Day in our rush to run out and get more stuff. The idea of
Thanksgiving was born from struggle and the awareness of God's goodness
despite our difficulty and hardship. Now we seem to believe that we deserve
all the good things we have, and we can't even have of day of reflection on
Thanksgiving without turning it into an excuse to shop until we drop getting
more, more, more. Will Rogers drew this contrast between Thanksgiving Day
then and now:

"In the days of our founders, people were willing to give thanks for
mighty little, for mighty little was all that they expected. But now neither
government nor nature can give enough but what we think is too little. In
the fall of the year, if the founders could gather in a few pumpkins, some
potatoes, and some corn for the winter, they were in a thanking mood. But if
we can't gather in a new car, a new radio...and some government relief, why
we feel that the world is against us."

It's ironic that the more and more we have for which to be thankful,
the harder and harder it is seems to get to be truly thankful. As the late
Andy Rooney would say, "Why is that?"

--Charles Tucker, Jr.

Have a great day! ( and a great Thanksgiving!)

Alan Smith

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Not everyone is thankful at Thanksgiving


You may not have stopped to think about it, but not everyone is thankful at Thanksgiving. Some are like the suffering person in the note below.


"I really don't get this 'Thanksgiving thing.' I don't have the 'Leave it to Beaver' family, never did. Sure it's a big time for families, but I'm alone on Thanksgiving, so what's the big deal. My kids don't live near me; I'm not close to my brother or sister, my husband left me, so what's to celebrate, Being alone? Being miserable? I'll just snuggle up in my blanket on the sofa with my TV dinner while the rest of you go on with your fairy tale lives." (Anonymous)


Now, you may think the above note is a little extreme, but is it really? Think about your life and the lives of folks you know. How many of them are truly happy? How many times do you or they worry about things in this life? There may be a family member who is sick or who had a bad report from the doctor. You may be looking at the loss of a job, a cut in your hours at work. It may be that your employer may be downsizing, or you worry about the drop in the value of your home or your savings or retirement funds.


For some people, it is difficult to celebrate the holidays in November and December. I read somewhere that there are more suicides at this time of year than any other. Why? Probably because people are reminded that they don't have the storybook lives they would like to have and they feel like they never will.


You may be wondering what worry has to do with Thanksgiving. The way it connects is that the inability to give thanks comes from the same weakness and struggling in our spirits that causes us to worry. It is a basic losing of our faith in the one who sustains us.


Did you know that at least 9 times in the New Testament we read the words, "May God be with you." Do you really believe that God is with you today? Do you recognize his power and strength around you? Could it be that you are spending so much time focusing on the negatives things that might happen, that you forget to count your blessings for today?


You see our sense of well being; the ability to give thanks is in proportion to our faith in God. Paul writes these words in Ephesians 5:19-20, "Speak to one another with psalms, hymn always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps right now, this moment, would be a good time to begin singing the old song that tells us to, "Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done."

Is it a time for Thanksgiving? YES! I definitely think so!

--Russ Lawson

Friday, November 18, 2011

The University of Alabama and Louisiana State University

Many hailed the game as the one to determine which of the two teams would go
on to win the National Collegiate Athletic Association Football
Championship. It featured the top-seeded teams in the United States: the
University of Alabama and Louisiana State University. LSU won the game 9-6
in overtime. No touchdowns were scored in the game by either team; all of
the points were scored by field goal kickers. There were also missed
opportunities to score by the kickers for the team from Alabama. These
kickers, Cade Foster and Jeremy Shelley, have received a lot of criticism
and blame for missing 4 out of 6 field goals between them.

A previous kicker for the Alabama Crimson Tide football team, Leigh Tiffin,
expressed sympathy for Foster and Shelley in his blog. Tiffin can relate to
the current kickers. As a freshman, Tiffin missed three field-goal attempts
and a point-after-touchdown kick in a 24-23 overtime loss at Arkansas. He
also experienced success when he helped the Tide go undefeated and win a
national championship in 2009.

Responding to the criticisms leveled against Foster and Shelley, Tiffin
sought to encourage the forlorn kickers by reflecting on some lessons
learned from his own experiences. One of his lessons was: "Always separate
your personal worth from your athletic performance." *

Before WE point fingers at those who have failed in one area of life or
another, we need to understand this truth: each and everyone of us have
"missed the mark" in our lives. This is the literal meaning of one of the
words (Gr. hamartano) that are translated "sin" in Scripture. "For ALL have
sinned ('missed the mark') and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans
3:23). The fact that we have all missed the mark can not only bring
feelings of guilt and disappointment, but also the greatest penalty for sin:
eternal destruction (Matthew 7:13-14).

But God loves us so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross so that we
might be forgiven for "missing the mark" and have the prospect of living
eternally with Him in heaven when this life is over. "In Him we have
redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the
riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7).

God will save those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts
16:30-31), repent of their sins (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men
(Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the
forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).

Yes, we have ALL "missed the mark," but we may gain the ultimate victory
through Jesus Christ! "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Won't YOU accept His offer of forgiveness and eternal life?

David A. Sargent

Magic Johnson

On November 7th, 1991 Magic Johnson announced to the world that he was HIV positive and would be retiring from basketball.  Last week I watched in amazement as EPSN and a host of other media outlets "celebrated" the 20-year mark of that day.  They talked about how he had overcome adversity, supported charities, founded HIV research organizations, and other things he had done.  But as I listened, watched, and read everything being said, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth.  I found it troubling that the media was honoring a man who contracted HIV through fornication and promiscuous behavior.

I have nothing personally against Magic Johnson and I don't know what kind of person Johnson is today.  I also realize that we all make mistakes and can change our lives around.  There was just something sickening about how the media was glorifying the day when Johnson admitted to the world that he had been engaging in sinful activities and contracted a deadly virus because of it.  Yes, it is amazing that his health is so good 20 years later, but the honor and publicity he received for it just wasn't right.

I don't expect the media to be moral and upright.  Characteristics like those seem to be long extinct for them.  The media is becoming more impure and accepting of sin all the time.  The problem is, this seems to be rubbing off on Christians.  I am always saddened when I see Christian people supporting people like Lada Gaga, Katy Perry, Flo Rida, and a plethora of other immoral celebrities.  Just because a person is a great musician, athlete, or actor does not mean we should turn a blind eye to who they are and what they support.  We would be sickened if a close friend of family member did the things these people do, but for some reason we aren't with celebrities.

What does God expect us to do about this?  First, He expects us to be different from the world (1 John 2:15-17).  Second, He expects us to be the "light of the world" and the "salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13-16).  If we are supporting immoral people, not only are we being just like the world, we will have a difficult time being a light for God.

It's time we take a second look at who and what we are supporting.

 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ecclesiastes 7:21

 

In Ecclesiastes 7:21 Solomon warns, "do not take seriously all the words which are spoken...." The fact is, people say things; sometimes things they don't really mean. We often respond "Oh yeah? Then why did they say it if they didn't mean it?!" To this Solomon responds: "haven't you ever said something you didn't mean?" All of us would have to say "yes" to that question. Maybe we said it in anger. Perhaps we were tired, sick, irritated - and so out came those words that we later regret.

 

Yet this isn't a passage about guarding your words but rather about guarding your ears. We need to be careful about running too far, over-reacting to the words of others. We need to be a little more "thick skinned." Don't take everything so personally. Give people a break. We all say things we didn't mean or say it in a way that upsets the hearer.

 

Christianity is a religion of tenderness, compassion and forgiveness. Rather than being quick to anger or easily offended, let's give each other a dose of kindness. I know I need it. Do you?

 

Denny Petrillo

 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep

I recently read a little story about a little girl that touched my heart. It
seems that this little girl was late coming home for supper one evening.
When she got home her parents were understandably upset. He questioned her
about why she had been so late, after all they had worried about her!


The Little girl said, "I stopped to help Marcie, she had a wreck on her
bicycle and it was broken." Her father said, "But you don't know anything
about fixing bicycles!" To which the little girls replied, "I know, but
stopped to help her cry."


Now you may or may not know anything about fixing bicycles, or cars, or
washing machines, or refrigerators or much of anything else. But when
friends have broken things in their lives and are in despair, we can help
them with that! The truth is that you are rarely in the position of being
able to fix the brokenness of someone's life, but you can help them cry
about it. You can encourage them and help them through the hard times in
life!


Paul wrote in Romans 12:15, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with
those who weep." (KJV). I kind of like a modern translation of that verse
that says, "Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy: share tears
when they're down." (MSG)


We are entering into that time of the year when you are more apt to notice
the sorrow or rejoicing of those around you. You may take more notice of
people (or groups) trying to relieve the difficulties of those who are
struggling to make it in or world. People take up collections of money, food
and clothing to help those who might be less fortunate than we. They try to
help folks who are struggling just to make ends meet. So count your
blessings and do what you can, but if you have nothing to help with
physically, then share their sorrow or suffering; cry with them!


On the other hand we are also entering into a time of rejoicing! It is a
time of thanksgiving when people take time to count their blessings, thank
God. I wonder however, if we rejoice in the right things? I read of an old
man who was very poor. His cloths were tattered and his shoes had holes in
them. Some people who lived near by gathered some clothes and several pairs
of shoes and left them on his doorstep one night. The next morning he ran to
his friend's house praising God. He said, "Rejoice with me !" "God is so
good, someone left clothes and shoes on my doorstep last night and I met
some folks this morning who were in need of them."


So, sometimes we cry and sometimes we rejoice with folks, even if we don't
necessarily understand why they are crying or rejoicing. Psalm 92:1 Tells
us, "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD…" (KJV) I may not
always understand it, but I believe it anyway! Let's all do it now!


Russ Lawson

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Veteran’s Day

                                        "Render therefore to all their dues.......

                                          ...... honor to whom honor." Rom. 13:7

Well, it hardly seems like a whole year has passed since we paid "honor" to our nation's veterans, but it surely has as Friday last was Veteran's Day. To me that holiday is sort of like Mother's Day in that I don't believe our honoring should be relegated to just one day per year. Both honoree's deserve to receive "honor" all year round, but I guess that I should be glad that our society hasn't gotten so unconcerned and indifferent that it still sets aside a special day for them.

Several thoughts have shared space in my mind about the "honor due" our veterans and I'd like to share them with you for a few moments today. Being a person who loves history, I especially like military history. I'm always running across items that are inspirational and can be cited as illustrations for scriptural lessons. Allow me to provide you with one I read about some time ago and found inspiring.

I know that, in the past, I've written about many of the "negatives" surrounding Hollywood and the entertainment industry, and deservedly so. But let me tell you about a "positive" that relates to our "honor" of veterans. Perhaps you'll recall a great and accomplished actress by the name of Elsa Lanchester. She was, by all measures of acting, a Hollywood star.

It was reported that during WW2 she would give informal parties at her house for servicemen that were going to war. She had made up what she referred to as her "Servicemen's Book" and she would ask the soldiers at her parties to write their name and address in her book. As they did so she would tell them that she would pray for them constantly for their safe return and for God to watch over them.

When she received word that they had returned from the war she would look up the name in her book and then write after it, "Thank You, God." You see, not all entertainers or people associated with that business are of a reprobate character. It's just unfortunate that it seems the reprobates far outnumber the good ones.

Another thought occupying space in my head was the awarding of the Medal of Honor to Sgt. Salvatore Giunta about this time last year. I have to tell you up front something that really upsets me regarding the Medal of Honor and that's hearing someone, especially a media personality, make mention of one "winning" the medal. One doesn't "win" the Medal of Honor (or any other medal for valor), they are "awarded" it. They are a "recipient" of it. IT IS NOT A CONTEST!

In the ceremony accompanying Sgt. Giunta's award I noticed two things interesting that relate to "honor." One of a positive nature and the other, a negative. The positive was of course, this most deserved "honor" bestowed upon Sgt. Giunta. The negative aspect of "honor" was that there were three rows of people standing behind the President and Sgt. Giunta during the award ceremony. The first two rows were made up of politicians (and I can only think of "photo op") and the families of Sgt. Giunta and of the deceased soldiers he tried to save had to stand in the third row - behind the politicians. That was not honorable to me.

That dishonor of the families brings me to another one of my thoughts and that relates to a phrase we hear from time to time in military reporting. (Sometimes too often) That phrase is "collateral damage." It's usually mentioned to describe and incident wherein persons who were not intended to be harmed by a military action were. I'd like to take that phrase a step further for a moment.

Did you ever consider that the families, the parents, the wives, the children (et al) of the personnel either killed or wounded in action are also "collateral damage?" I certainly do and I believe that as we pay "honor" to our fallen veterans the families of those veterans, those "collaterally damaged" victims are "due honor" also.

Yes, we owe a great deal of "honor" to all of our veterans, especially the ones who made the ultimate sacrifice and lie in graveyards here or in foreign lands or were consigned to the depths of the sea. And, our "dues" go back to the very foundation of this country. My next part of this editorial is a citation to you of part of a sermon I once read and it so inspired me that I copied it down. It so relates to what our nation owes our veterans. The "honor" that they are "due."

The preacher of this sermon reminded the congregation of the scene of Valley Forge during the War of Independence. For them to picture the cold, the starving soldiers and all the terribleness of that situation and then to picture one of the soldiers facing them with his musket in his hand and saying these words.....

"I gave you a birthright of freedom born in the Constitution and now your children graduate too illiterate to read it. I fought in the snow barefoot to give you the freedom to vote and you stay at home because it rains. I left my family destitute to give you the freedom of speech and you remain silent on critical issues. I orphaned my children to give you a government to serve you and it has stolen democracy from the people.

It's the soldier not the reporter who gives the freedom of the press. It's the soldier not the poet who gives you the freedom of speech. It's the soldier not the campus organizer who allows you to demonstrate. It's the soldier who salutes the flag, serves the flag, whose coffin is draped with the flag that allows the protester to burn the flag!"

The sermon concluded with the prayer below and I find it a fitting close to my thoughts today. And as you read it, please remember all of our veterans of past wars and conflicts plus those still going on as we speak. And also their families, that "collaterally damaged" group who also sacrifice.

And lastly, remember that greatest and most beneficial sacrifice of all, the voluntary death of our Lord and Savior on the cross. It's the "greatest and most beneficial" because the "freedoms" are eternal.

                    "Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands. Protect them as they

                     protect us. Bless them and their families for the selfless acts they

                     perform for us in our time of need. I ask this in the name of Jesus,

                     our Lord and Savior. Amen!"

Ron Covey

 

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