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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Run For The Wall" from L.A. to D.C.

Well, we're almost at the end of April, 2012 and another month seems to have flown by, doesn't it? My departure date for the annual "Run For The Wall" from L.A. to D.C. is rapidly approaching (May 16th). Doesn't it seem like that, on all occasions that require preparation, as the date draws closer the clocks speed up? Sure does to me, anyway.

Thinking about that "seeming" phenomenon, plus a business phrase that we hear a lot, inspired me to offer up a little lesson today about "time." The phrase to which I refer is the one that people use when they're working and they say that they're "on the clock." I'm sure you've heard that said many times over. Let me see if I can tie this into a spiritual lesson that we can consider together for a few moments.

What do we know about "time?" Well, here's my thoughts regarding this question. First off, we know where it came from and where it's going. As to it's origin, we can turn to Gen. 1:5 and read that after God separated the light from the darkness, the "evening and the morning were the first day." That's where it all began "time wise," so to speak.

Before we leave this thought area, let me remind you that "time" only relates to man and the other things of this earth. This is the only location applicable to "time." If you think about it, this is where the line from the old western movie fits. That it's while we're on earth that "we travel between the eternities." "Time" did not exist before the earth was created and will not exist after the earth is destroyed.

And that answers the question of where "time" is going. Actually, there are two answers as to where it's going seen in the individual sense and the collective sense. Individually, "time" will cease upon our death. Collectively, "time" will cease at the coming of the "day of the Lord," an event graphically described in 2 Pet. 3:10. In either case, we return to "eternity" or to a "timeless" estate.

Secondly, we know how to measure "time." Without going on about the Sun and the earth's orbit (etcetera, etcetera, etcetera) let me just say that we can divide the 24 hour period created by God (Gen. 1:5) into hours, minutes, seconds and even further divisions. We can then transpose these hours the other direction and establish weeks, months, years and so on. In other words, we can print calendars and day planners wherein we can write down our future appointments should we be so blessed as to live to see them.

Here's a little "side thought" for you to consider: if "eternity" existed before "time," and "eternity" will exist after "time," and "time"can be measured to the exact nanosecond, it would almost seem like there's a design to this place called earth, doesn't it? (Facetiously spoken of course) So, if there's a design, then there must be a designer, wouldn't you say? Sorta flies in the face of all this earth and us being here by some accidental, cataclysmic event, doesn't it?

Another "side thought" (I'm full of them): because "time" only applies to man and not to God, this helps us understand how the Prophet Malachi could say that God is "unchanging." (Mal. 3:6) And also how the writer of Hebrews could say "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever." (Heb. 13:8)

That "side thought" leads me into some more thoughts regarding the measuring of "time." Besides clocks, sundials, hourglasses and calendars, we can measure "time" in another way. We do this by noting a change in things, with those "things" being everything and everyone on earth.

It works this way - when things change, "time" passes. Like when I look in the mirror and see that I get better looking every day, I can tell that "time" has passed. Or, I can tell that my vision has greatly deteriorated. Either way, I can tell that a change has occurred and that there's been a passing of "time."

Yep, everything changes as "time" goes by. Solomon, in the third chapter of Ecclesiastes said that "everything has a season" and that there is a "time for every purpose under heaven." Note again, that "time" is only "under heaven" meaning that it's only here on earth.

Everything and everyone has "a season." We have a period of "time" in which to operate, so to speak, with that period being our life span, whatever amount of "time" that may be. To reiterate, it's that period, that "season," that we're "on the clock." And, it's while we're "on the clock" that we have the opportunity to prepare to return to "eternity."

Here's the point and culmination of my thoughts today on this period in which we're travelers between eternities. This "time" that we live on this earth. And, furthermore, I believe that we should consider, very seriously I might add, the fact that this is our only "season." The only period in which we're "on the clock."

In other work parlance, we couldn't come in early, nor can we stay late. IE: there's no "overtime" allowed by management. Therefore, all of our preparation for the "eternity" to come, the one we're facing, has to be done now while we're "on the clock."

If I may appropriate another much-used term these days, there's not going to be any "do-overs" even though many people think that there will be. Hebrews 9:27 effectively eliminates the misguided idea of "do-overs" if we didn't get it right this time. Knowing this, wouldn't you say that it behooves us to make wise use of the "time" we're allotted?

The apostle Paul warns us in Eph. 5:15-16 that we should "walk" (live or operate) "circumspectly" (being considerate of or judicious), "wisely" making use of the "time" because everyone of us is "on the clock." And the thing is, we don't know when the quitting bell will ring.

Thus, I would close by saying that the "wisest" use of our "time" whilst "on the clock" is, in a nutshell, to know what pleases God and DO IT. Why? Because this is what determines where exactly our souls will spend the coming "eternity" and it will be a place where there are no clocks and the quitting bell never rings.

Ron Covey

Friday, April 27, 2012

Psalm 65:8-13

Albert Einstein very clearly expressed his feelings about God and this world. Madeleine L'Engle once said this about him, "I share Einstein's affirmation that anyone who is not lost in rapturous awe at the power and glory of the mind behind the universe 'is as good as a burnt out candle.'" Einstein also made the statement about God and our universe, "He who can no longer pause to wonder, is as good as dead."

 

Notice the beautifully crafted words of David in Psalm 65:8-13:

 

"By awesome deeds You answer us in righteousness, O God of our salvation,

You who are the trust of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest sea;

Who establishes the mountains by His strength,

Being girded with might;

Who stills the roaring of the seas,

The roaring of their waves,

And the tumult of the peoples.

They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs;

You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy.

You visit the earth and cause it to overflow;

You greatly enrich it;

The stream of God is full of water;

You prepare their grain, for thus You prepare the earth.

You water its furrows abundantly,

You settle its ridges,

You soften it with showers,

You bless its growth.

You have crowned the year with Your bounty,

And Your paths drip with fatness.

The pastures of the wilderness drip,

And the hills gird themselves with rejoicing.

The meadows are clothed with flocks

And the valleys are covered with grain;

They shout for joy, yes, they sing.

 

It is very valuable to step away from our busy and troublesome lives to remember the amazing God we serve. It is valuable to stand in wonder and awe at the majesty we have been surrounded with. Einstein recognized the value in this. David recognized this value of this. Do we?

 
--Brett Petrillo

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Unwanted cranial ammunition acquisition

Eight-year-old William Pace was accidentally shot in the head with a 22-caliber
rifle by his brother.  Pace died on Monday - 94 years and six months after being
shot, with the bullet still lodged in his brain.  He was 103 years old at the
time of his passing.

Pace was officially named by the Guinness Book Of World Records in 2006 as
living the longest with "unwanted cranial ammunition acquisition".  Doctors in
his native Texas decided not to retrieve the bullet for fear of causing brain
damage.  According to his son, quoted in an Associated Press report (4/26/12),
he suffered damage to an eye and a facial nerve, but otherwise lived a normal
life.

Three years ago a World War 2 veteran in England woke up with a metal object in
his mouth.  It turned out to be a piece of shrapnel from a battle injury he
sustained 65 years before.  Other pieces of shrapnel had been removed following
the battle, but this piece, lodged in his jaw, went unnoticed.

It's not uncommon for physicians to leave foreign objects in a person's body if
they fear removing them may cause more damage.  President James A. Garfield died
weeks after being shot by an assassin.  The gunshot wound alone may have been
ultimately lethal, but there are many who believe he would have survived had
they simply left the bullet alone.

There was one whose story is even more remarkable than these.  Jesus Christ was
the victim of multiple wounds.  Among those listed by the gospel writers were
deep wounds on the back from scourging; deep puncture wounds in His scalp from
the crown of thorns; more puncture wounds in His hands and feet from the nails
which attached Him to the cross; and a gaping hole in His side from a Roman
spear (John 19:1-2,18,34).

After hearing this record of wounds Jesus suffered within a few hours, a
reasonable person would ask, "How did He survive such injuries?"  He didn't.
Jesus died as a result of those injuries, a fact verified by an expert in
execution, the Roman centurion (Mark 15:43-45).  But three days later Jesus was
again alive!  The one who had died had been raised to life again (Mark 16:6,7).

Following His resurrection, the thorns, nails and spear were no longer found in
His body.  But the scars were there.  One of His followers, Thomas, was
skeptical upon hearing that Jesus was alive.  Those doubts were answered,
though, when Jesus invited him to come near: "Reach your finger here, and look
at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side.  Do not be
unbelieving, but believing" (John 20:27).

Jesus took more than a bullet in the head.  Some, as William Pace demonstrated
for over 94 years, can live even with a bullet lodged in the brain.  Eventually,
though, mortality takes over and death comes by some other means.  But Jesus
conquered death, and in doing so gave us hope of having the same victory one
day.

"But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfuits of those
who have fallen asleep ... even so in Christ all shall be made alive" (1
Corinthians 15:20,22).  We can't dodge every bullet, and mortality certainly
can't be stopped.  But we can be found in Christ, and therein lies our hope.

Timothy D. Hall

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why go to church?

Easter is now a thing of the past, many folks won't be back in church for another year, or at least until Christmas service rolls around. Why should they go to church any more than that? OK, I understand that you really don't "Go to Church." I understand that the Church is not the building, but rather we "ARE THE CHURCH" as people. But, as most people in our world use the term, they understand it as "going to church". Hopefully we understand that we really "Go to Worship," when we gather as the church (God's people).  

But as they say, "I digress". The question under consideration is, "Why Go". Actually there are a number of reasons for us to go and be with the church. For fellowship, for growing our relationships with others, for the singing and prayer, all of these things are good things. I would suggest though that we should primarily go to worship God. That's the most important thing we can do. We come together with others of like mind in the presence of the creator of the universe and give worship to Him. How important could that be though?

In his autobiography, Albert Schweitzer said that one of the best things his parents did for him as a child was to take him to worship services. Even though he was too young to understand much of what was going on, just being there was important. He claimed it is not important that children understand everything. What is important is that "they feel something of what is serious and solemn" in our relationship to God. Just being in the presence of God with others shapes a part of our hearts and minds in the image of God.

Why go to church? Notice what the writer of Hebrews 10:19-25 has to say about this:
(I kind of like the way "The Message" paraphrases this passage). Notice the words: "
 "So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into "the Holy Place." Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The "curtain" into God's presence is his body.

So let's do it—full of belief, confident that we're presentable inside and out. Let's keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching." (they title this section: Don't throw it away).

So, how about it, don't you think you could be just a little more frequent in attending the worship of our God? Why wait for a "special occasion," when each time the church meets it is a special occasion. The problem is, our world has forgotten that, how about you?

Russ Lawson

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mayor of Newark, NJ, Cory Booker

On Thursday night, April 12, the Mayor of Newark, NJ, Cory Booker, returned
home and found his neighbor's home on fire. A woman was outside the home
screaming that her daughter was still inside.

Booker decided to go into the burning building to try to save his neighbor.
Concerned about his safety, his security detail tried to discourage him, but
Booker told them that the woman was going to die.

Booker entered the burning building and the third story apartment where he
was told the woman was trapped. He said he feared for his life as the
kitchen erupted in flames and he couldn't find the woman. He called out to
her, and he heard her faint cries of "I'm here, I'm here. Help! I'm here."
Booker found her on her bed, lifted her up, and carried her on his shoulders
through the burning kitchen.

He met Detective Alex Rodriguez in the stairwell, who helped him carry the
woman outside to safety. Booker's security detail also helped three others
escape the flames.

48-year-old Zina Hodge, still recovering from burns and smoke inhalation at
Saint Barnabas Medical Center, is grateful to be alive and thankful for the
mayor's heroics in saving her from the flames. Hodge told reporters that
she was sleeping in her third-story apartment and became "delusional" after
awaking and gasping for air due to the smoke in her room. When asked about
Booker's coming to the rescue, she said: "I didn't even see him. I don't
even remember him picking me up, but I heard him calling me.."

"I'm blessed," she told Fox5 News. "If Cory wouldn't have come in there and
rescued me, I would have died in there." *

Due to our sins, it is as if we are trapped in a burning building and
destined to perish in the flames of hell (cf. Matthew 18:8-9).

But Jesus came to rescue us from the flames! He essentially endured "hell"
for us by taking upon Himself the sins of the world and paid the price for
our redemption by dying on the cross for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21;
Ephesians 1:7). If we will accept His offer of salvation, we will be
blessed with salvation and eternal life.

He is "calling" each one of us through the Gospel message!

In order to accept His offer, we must place our faith and trust in Him (Acts
16:30-31), turn from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Him
before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed) into Christ for the
forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).

Detective Alex Rodriguez praised Cory Booker for his courageous actions. He
told "CBS This Morning": "Without thinking twice, he ran into the flames and
rescued this young lady."

Once we recognize the perilous predicament in which our sins place US, and
the love of Jesus who gave His life for us to rescue us from the flames, we
will praise Him and gladly accept His offer of salvation and life!

Do YOU hear Him calling? Won't you respond today?

David A. Sargent

Sunday, April 22, 2012

It was a monument to human arrogance

Last Sunday morning I was confronted by one of our Sisters at church who, in sort of a disappointed tone of voice, said that she was surprised to find that my editorial lesson was not based on the 100th year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. She was just sure that was what it would be about.

Well, maybe it should have been, however I already had written an editorial that related to a previous one so I went ahead with the one already prepared. But, I got to thinking that perhaps I shouldn't let the opportunity presented by the anniversary of such a famous tragedy go to waste so, without further ado and a week late, here's some thoughts centered around that great event.

Yes, that great "unsinkable" ship, the RMS Titanic, met it's tragic fate in the North Atlantic on April 15, 1912 when it struck an iceberg and didn't live up to the claims of its designer and builders. It sank! I loved the answer given to a newspaper reporter by an elderly woman survivor of that day and I'll repeat it because of its significance to our lesson: "It was a monument to human arrogance."

After years of searching, and probably due to advances in technology, its watery grave was finally located and they've been able to determine a lot of the "why's and wherefore's" relating to its demise. I'm going to just condense the things I've read about this and say that, in the judgment of the experts, "substandard materials were used in the ship's construction."

In other words, when the time came that they were needed the most, they didn't hold up. They failed and their failure cost the lives of 1,523 people, including the life of the ship's designer. Only 705 people survived the sinking. Mathematically speaking, that's about a 2 to 1 ratio of perishers to survivors.

This brings me to the question - "Why were so few saved?" But, perhaps there's an even better question - "Why did so many of them perish?" Now we could debate this all day, but there is a simple answer to both questions: the "saved" are the ones who got into the lifeboats and those who perished did not. However, I think it important to our lesson to examine their reasoning for not entering the lifeboats.

Before I offer my opinion as to why they didn't, I'd like to first mention something else about the lifeboats that baffled me when I read this fact. They were not filled to capacity. Not even anywhere near to being filled. My answer to this thought will go to the point of our lesson today.

Okay, let's go back to why two-thirds of the passengers (those who perished) refused, or declined, to get into a lifeboat. My take is, they believed what the owners and builders told them - it's "unsinkable." In essence, what they did was put their faith and their trust in what others said and thus, saw no necessity to get into a lifeboat.

Think about it. They didn't have to die. They could have been saved. All they had to do was get into the lifeboat. But, they chose to believe the propaganda, the claims of some of their fellow men, staying on the "unsinkable" ship until it was too late and we now know from history, that their faith was terribly misplaced.

I think there is a great lesson we can derive by recalling this tragic event. The first thing I think of is that there is another event coming in everyone's lives and, depending upon the choice we make, will be either tragic or wonderful. This event is our death. Here's the most important aspect about that event as it pertains to our lesson today - all choices end. In other words, if we're not in the lifeboat when that occurs, we're going down with the ship.

The prophet Ezekiel provides us with a great passage that fits with our thoughts here and easily relates to our "parable" of either being in or out of the lifeboat. If you read verses 20-32 of Ezek. 18 you'll see what I'm referring to however, for brevity sake, I'll take the liberty of paraphrasing his words here.

In this passage, God is speaking to His "chosen people" Israel (Isa. 44:1), but keep in mind, Christians are now His "chosen people." (Eph. 1:4) Basically He tells Israel that each of us are responsible for our own situation. The situation of being either saved or lost. That we're not going to be saved by someone else's action, nor are we going to be lost because of the sins of others. That we are, each of us, free-moral-agents and as such, we are free to choose righteousness or unrighteousness. IE: to either get in the lifeboat or stay on a sinking ship.

Now there's an interesting "side lesson" seen in these verses in Ezekiel and that lesson is this: that a person who is "unrighteous" can turn to God, be obedient to Him, and become "righteous." But it also says that someone who is "righteous" can turn back into sin and become "unrighteous." Referring to our illustration today, they can jump out of the lifeboat and back onto the ship, if they so choose. Doesn't make much sense to do that, does it? But we know that this happens all too often, don't we? (PS: This also refutes the man-made doctrine of "once saved, always saved," doesn't it?)

Ezekiel provides us with a simple equation: the "righteous" will be saved because of their own "righteousness" and the "unrighteous" will perish because of their own "unrighteousness." Perishing or living depends entirely upon our own choices: staying on the ship or getting into the lifeboat.

Here's our closing thoughts for today. God doesn't want anyone to "go down with the ship." In Ezek. 18:32 He says, "For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies, says the Lord God. Therefore turn and live." He says the ship will go down, but we don't have to be on it. There is a lifeboat available to us.

In Romans 6:23 we read these words: "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." In keeping with our lesson today, the "wages of sin" equals the Titanic. Jesus Christ is the "lifeboat."

Do you think it possible that it's "human arrogance" to believe that anything man-made is "unsinkable?" That anything man-made will last forever? We know that nothing of this earth equates to eternity and that goes for material things or "doctrines of men."

I'll make one last point from the words of Ezekiel (18:31) and I hope it makes you think about whether you'd have been one of the "2/3rds" staying on the ship, or one of the minority in the lifeboat. God asks this question: "For why will ye die?"

Ron Covey

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Things God wants us to learn

    In 1Samuel 17, God's people faced a ferocious and savage army lead by a giant!  God chose a single young man who had an unbendable faith, and set him in front of the giant, and the next thing we know, the giant is dead, and the army is defeated!  What do you suppose God expects you and me to learn from that incident?

    In 2Kings 6, the Syrian army sent swarms of soldiers to Dothan to arrest Elisha. The army surrounded the city. A young servant with Elisha became afraid.  Elisha told the young man, "Fear not, for they that be with us are more than they that be with them (2Kgs. 6:16).  The eyes of the young servant were opened and he beheld the mountains filled with chariots of fire surrounding and protecting Elisha (vs 17).  What do you suppose God expects you and me to learn from that incident? (cp. Psalm 34:7).

    In 2Kings 19:35, one Angel slew 185,000 Assyrians because of the prayer of a single righteous man!  What do you suppose God expects us to learn from that incident?

    In Genesis 19, we read that God lead Lot and his daughters out of Sodom-Gomorrah and burned everyone else in those twin-cities to ashes.  What do you suppose God expects you and me to learn from that incident?

    Because of sin, God saved eight people, and killed all the rest of the population of the earth! (Genesis 6-9).  What do you suppose God expects you and me to learn from that incident?

    When a king ordered the death of God's infant Son (Matt. 2:16), God intervened and the king's plan was thwarted.  What do you suppose God expects you and me to learn from that?

    When two preachers were arrested, bound in chains and thrown into prison (Acts 16:19-33), God caused an earthquake and set His preachers free, who also baptized the prison guard in the process!  What do you suppose God expects you and me to learn from that?

    When Jesus was betrayed and left standing alone in the Garden of Gethsemane, surrounded by His enemies, God sent an Angel to strengthen Him that He could endure the Cross (Luke 22:43).  Why do you suppose God wants us to know that?

 

--Toby Miller

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Foundation for a Better Life

          The Foundation for a Better Life has a series of television commercials which encourage basic civic virtues.  I am inspired by the one where the little boy wanders onto the stage just before the virtuoso gives his piano recital. The little boy sits at the grand piano and pecks out a simple tune. The maestro walks up behind him and whispers in his ear - "Keep playing." Then he joins his masterful skill with the little boy's tune.  "Encouragement - Pass it on."
 
          Another commercial portrays Alex, a basketball player in the championship game. Alex is defending when the ball is passed and knocked out of bounds.  Alex's coach calls time-out. Alex walks up to the huddle and confesses to the coach, "I touched the ball, Coach.  I touched it last."  Alex's team-mates don't want to hear that!  It's the championship game! As Alex walks back into the game, his coach calls him from behind, "Alex! Good call."  So, with his coach's permission, Alex goes to the referee and confesses that the ball was out on him.  "Sportsmanship - pass it on."
 
           Sportsmanship is one manifestation of the greater characteristic called virtue or moral excellence as some translations give it.
 
             Moral excellence is a rare trait. If it is possessed to the degree in which we see it exhibited in Alex, it comes through as naturally as it does for Alex.  You can't help but be virtuous, if you are.
 
            Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1:3 that we are granted everything relative to life and godliness through the knowledge of God, who called us according to His own moral excellence (aretē). The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament defines it as "eminence".  "It can refer to excellence of achievement, to mastery in a specific field, on the one side, or to endowment with higher power on the other, or often to both together" (Bauernfeind, 458). According to Bauernfeind, in Homer it referred to human achievement exhibited by what we would call "manliness." In non-biblical writings, it became equivalent to righteousness.
 
             The Greek concept of virtue ("heroic self-aggrandizement") is not God's concept.  The focus of the Bible is not on man's accomplishments but on God's works.  God called us to moral excellence through His virtue and goodness.
 
             Paul writes in Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence [virtue, p.h.], if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (ESV).
 
            When we think about the war that is raging around us - relativism, materialism, hedonism, nationalism, individualism - we can understand how important it is to add moral excellence or virtue to our lives. When we do, it will - as Jesus' virtue did - spill out at the most opportune times.
 
             Like Alex, when our morality comes to be tested at the most trying times, our virtue or moral excellence will flow from our inner being.  We cannot contain it.
 
--Paul Holland
 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

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For I know my transgression, and my sin is ever before me

Thanks to a morality clause in their contract, the University of Arkansas was able to fire head football coach Bobby Petrino and save nearly $18 million dollars.  That will be money, no doubt, that can be used toward finding and signing his replacement.  Though the fan base openly stated they could not care less about his sexually immoral ways (after all, he had led the Razorbacks to a stellar 21-5 record as coach), the university fired him for a series of indiscretions at the bottom of which was the married man's affair with a 25-year-old, engaged former volley ball star from the school.  It is yet to be seen what impact his actions will have on his marriage or his relationship with his four children.  How hard will it be for another university to trust him enough to hire him?  He has embarrassed himself and damaged his reputation.  And, for what?

  

There was another man, a man who by every indication was a much more spiritual man, who centuries ago gave up so much for comparatively little.  He had it all, power, wealth, reputation, respect, and a healthy relationship with God.  But one trip to the roof of his house began a downward spiral fueled by his own lust for a married woman.  By the time the dust settled, the man would experience the loss of four children, death threats, displacement, wholesale embarrassment, and his own spiritual compromise.  Though David was forgiven and restored in his relationship with God, look at the carnage that came of his tragic decision.

  

One of the biggest lies men and women swallow is that sexual immorality and deviance from God's pattern for sexuality is relatively harmless.  They know there is risk, and sometimes risk is part of the thrill for the guilty.  Perhaps one sees all that is at stake, but driven by sinful passion are too intoxicated with such to care.  But as sad as this week's newest scandal is and as lastingly tragic as David's decision was, it serves as a reminder and a warning for us today.  What does the "after" picture look like?  Let David have the last words:  "For I know my transgression, and my sin is ever before me" (Psa. 51:3).  What a price!

 

--Neal Pollard

 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

How many steps do people take in an average day?

On average, how many footsteps do you take each day?  That's a question few
people ever consider.  As you might suspect, however, if you can imagine the
question, you'll probably find an answer to it on the Internet.  And I did.

Yahoo.com hosts a site devoted to answering questions, and someone had already
asked mine.  10,000 steps per day has been given as the ideal for those who want
to be physically fit.  Reality shows a different result, with 3,000 to 5,000
steps being figures studies have usually found.  People living in less developed
countries will more than the average U.S. resident.

All of this makes Simon Beck truly amazing.  Beck lives in France, near the
frozen lakes of Savoie.  When he was younger Beck ran for exercise, but feet
problems don't allow that any longer.  He has found, though, that he can walk on
flat surfaces on snowshoes with less pain.  But he doesn't just walk; he creates
art.

If you want to see something amazing, go to http://youtu.be/5iE40uKlmp8.  This
four-minute video shows Beck "at work", walking in snow in predetermined
patterns.  When he is finished, sometimes days later, the artwork is stunning.
Some of his creations are as large as three soccer fields, and their beauty
remains until the next snowfall.

When I look back over the footsteps I've laid down today, will I see something
beautiful?  No, I'm not wearing snowshoes and there is no snow on the ground
here.  But has there been a pattern that I've followed?  Is there purpose that
drives my steps?

Peter was one who followed Jesus on earth for three years.  He saw the things
the Master did; he heard the gracious words that were spoken.  In summing up the
life of Jesus, Peter said this: "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the
Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good ..." (Acts 10:38).  When
Jesus' ministry was finished, a spectacular pattern of compassionate service was
indelibly etched into our world's history.

That same apostle wrote a letter which we have today in the New Testament.  Hear
what he says about our challenge to follow Jesus: "For to this you were called,
because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should
follow His steps" (1 Peter 2:21).

The word Peter used for "example" literally means "under-writing".  It was a
method used in the elementary school I attended.  At the top of the chalk board
were beautifully written letters of the alphabet.  Our job was to imitate those
examples.  Jesus presents us with the beautifully-formed footsteps of life.
Following His example leads to amazing results.

Paul used a different image to make the same point: "My little children, for
whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you" (Galatians 4:19).
Can Christ be formed in us?  That's what Paul was saying.  And when Christ is
the One who drives my steps, my steps will leave beautiful prints in the lives
of those whom I touch.

"If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his
cross, and follow Me" (Matthew 16:24).

Timothy D. Hall

Best cards for Easte

I was in a store this past week and saw the greeting card display filled
with hundreds of Easter cards. I noticed that there were bunches and bunches
of them that proclaimed in large letters, "Happy Easter".

Happy Easter, really? As I thought about that I wondered how many of those
who would receive those cards, would think about the fact that they can say
that because someone died. This is a time traditionally that folks dress up
in their finest clothes, plan family gatherings, have special family meals,
give candy and colored eggs to the children. All of this is done because of
tradition. That's not a bad thing, but we need to stay focused on what is
really important too.

Now I understand that Easter isn't a celebration of the death of Christ.
That's not a problem for me, but then again we wouldn't have the ability to
find anything happy about this particular time of the year, if it hadn't
been for him first dying.

As Christians we should understand that this time which the world calls
"Easter" is the culmination of the plan of God. Yes, it is a time
celebration, at time of rejoicing, a time to be happy. But happy because of
the promise fulfilled of the death, burial and resurrection of God's Son,
Jesus Christ!

If you want to know what Easter is really about, then read what the Apostle
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:1-3, "Now, brothers, I want to remind you of
the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken
your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I
preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I
passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins
according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the
third day according to the Scriptures." (NIV)

Then in 1 Corinthians 15:13-17, "For if there is no resurrection of the
dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been
raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we
apostles would all be lying about God, for we have said that God raised
Christ from the grave. But that can't be true if there is no resurrection of
the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not
been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless
and you are still guilty of your sin." (NLT)

Happy Easter? Yes, but we should be shouting Halleluiah rather than just
saying we're happy! Because it is through the resurrection of Christ Jesus,
that we have our hope of eternal life. It is the fulfillment of the first
prophecy made in Genesis 3:15 about the hope of man and the defeat of Satan.
The empty tomb cries out to the world that God has kept his promise, Christ
has risen and we will be also!

Russ Lawson

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How to have a perfect basketball bracket

            I filled out a perfect bracket!! One of the men with whom I have a Bible study gave me a real nice bracket to fill out for the NCAA tournament. So, I decided to fill it out. The odds of correctly filling in every single bracket is 1 in 147,573,952,589,676,480,000. If every person on earth were to fill out one bracket per second, humankind would eventually produce a winning bracket after 700 years!  But I have a winning bracket in my hand. 
 
            To make it even more astounding, I did not only write the winning team - even the upsets. I have the exact score for every team. The exact score! For every team. For every game. For the whole bracket. What are the odds of that happening? 
 
            You know by now - presuming I'm not lying - that I actually filled in the brackets after each game. That's what I did. It's not hard - the possibility of thus having a winning bracket is 1 in 1 - when you fill out the brackets after the fact. 
 
            The apostle John wrote in 1 John 5:13, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life." God has not left the path to heaven as guess work. He has given us the "perfect bracket" already filled-in. God tells us exactly what we need to do to get to heaven. 
 
            We need to hear the Gospel of Christ (Romans 10:17). We need to believe that Gospel (John 8:24). We need to repent of our sins (2 Corinthians 7:10). We need to confess our faith (Romans 10:9-10). We need to be immersed in water for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38). We need to remain faithful unto death (Hebrews 3:6). 
 
            As a member of the body of Christ, the "bracket" would include: singing and making melody in our hearts (Colossians 3:16). It includes praying for one another (James 5:16). It means dedicating ourselves to the reading of Scripture (1 Timothy 4:13). It means observing the Lord's Supper on the Lord's Day (1 Corinthians 11:17-20). It means giving for the support of good works (Galatians 6:6). 
 
            As an individual Christian, filling in the "perfect" bracket means I grow and practice more and more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). It means I consistently delete from my life unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossiping, slandering, insolence, arrogance, boasting, disobedience to parents (Romans 1:29-31).
 
             These are the things I need to have in my bracket and I'll be a winner. The possibility of having such a "winning bracket" and going to heaven is 1 in 1. You and I will then receive the "crown of righteousness" (2 Timothy 4:8).
 
 --Paul Holland
 
 

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