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Thursday, March 27, 2014

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us

THE QUESTION OF INNOCENCE

Have you ever thought about innocence? I mean in regard to how innocent do
you feel, (in general), about your life? Technically innocence is defined
as, "the state of being not guilty of a crime or other wrong act" (Webster).
I guess when we judge ourselves, the matter of guilt or innocence would fall
under what you perceive as a crime. I read a couple of interesting reports
regarding self proclaimed innocence that you might find interesting also.

Take for instance the credit union manager in Eugene, Oregon, who was
charged with embezzling $630,000 from her company over 6 years. The woman
admitted to a jury that although her hands had indeed taken the money, her
heart, mind and spirit were innocent because it was one of her multiple
personalities that had committed the crime.

Then there was the soccer fan in London who was convicted of threatening a
well known French soccer star. When the guilty verdict was handed down, the
fan grabbed the prosecuting attorney in a headlock and attempted to punch
him, screaming, "I am innocent! I promise! I swear on the Bible!"

Then there was a man in Bay City, Michigan, pleading innocent to the charge
of stealing some rings. He changed his mind when he learned that his
girlfriend was in the hallway outside the courtroom showing off the rings.
(Ben Franklin's Almanac)

You see, each of these people proclaimed innocence, until they were faced
with the evidence and judgment, really, until they were faced with the
truth. Again, how innocent do you feel about your life?

2 Timothy 4:1 speaks of a future where we will be" "In the presence of God
and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of
his appearing and his kingdom."

Sometime back I had a conversation with a man who declared that he had "no
sin in his life". I read to him 1 John 1:8-10 which says: "If we claim to be
without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess
our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us
from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to
be a liar and his word is not in us." I asked him what he thought about what
John wrote. I remember his response very clearly even today. He said, "I
don't know what it means, but it doesn't mean what it says."

How about you, does God's word mean what it says or not? Hebrews 4:13
reminds us: "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything
is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give
account." Guilty or innocent, what do you think God will say about you?

Russ Lawson

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Life is Hard

On one bright sunny day a few years back, there sat a blind man in a large
park beside a busy sidewalk. He had a sign he was holding saying, 'Help the
blind'. No many people paid attention to him, almost all passed him by not
dropping any money in the battered hat he had in front of him.

A little further down the sidewalk was another blind man. The difference was
that 90% of the people passing by stopped to drop some money in his
container. What was the difference? The second blind man had a sign that
read, "It's May, the flowers are in bloom and I am blind."

You see, each of us understand what it is to suffer hardship of some kind.
We may not be blind, but none the less we can understand the implications.

What makes your life hard? Is it your health or the health of someone you
hold dear? Could it be the loss of a job, or many worse the loss of one you
love to death? Maybe your children (or your parents) are not what you wish
they were or perhaps where you wish they were at. (Many families are
separated because of jobs or military service these days.) Could it be that
you are struggling with financial difficulties or even paying your taxes?
Could it be the loss of some freedom, either political or physical? Perhaps
you are struggling to feed your family and as you see, the list could go on
and on.

Is there an instant solution? Could winning the Mega-Millions Lottery solve
your problems? What about an instant health cure or the offer of a new job?
Could any one thing solve all of your problems?

If you are like most of us the answer is no. Few of us have just one
problem, but we normally have "one" large over riding problem on which we
focus on at any particular time. I honestly don't have the miracle cure to
offer for your problem, whatever it may be. But I can offer some advice on
how to cope with it.

First, we need realize the life and its problems are only temporary. We
actually do have promises that in the future, after this life ends we will
be in a much better place. But second, we need to realize that God cares
about each of us who are his creations and no matter how hard life gets that
never changes. Mathew 10:29-30 reassures us that a Sparrow doesn't fall from
the sky without God knowing about it. Also, we are assured that he knows us
so well, that he knows the number of hairs on our heads.

I know that what the Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:11-13 is quite
confusing to some people. He says, "I have learned the secret of living in
every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or
little." But Paul's next sentence tells you why he is content. "For I can do
everything through Christ, who gives me strength." Where are you looking for
your strength? Which of your friends or counselors can offer you what God
can offer? Which of them really knows you the way God does? You see, it
might be May and you may feel blind, but if Christ is the light of our
lives, we see beauty anyway.

Russ Lawson

Monday, March 17, 2014

Excuses and Explanations


What Happened To The "R"?
by Tom Wacaster

A couple of years ago I wrote an article for our weekly bulletin entitled "Excuses and Explanations." In that bulletin I quoted a reliable source for an adequate explanation as to the diversity between a Texan's southern draw and a northerner's challenging dialect of the English language. I provide a quote of what I wrote then to set the background for this week's column: "The quantity of consonants in the English language is constant. If omitted in one place, they turn up in another. When a Bostonian 'pahks his cah,' the lost R's migrate southwest, causing a Texan to 'warsh' his car and invest in 'erl' wells."

A few of you pointed out that my Sunday evening slide presentation had a major flaw in its spelling-not just once, but on every slide that had the same heading. I had intended to use the words of our Lord, "You have heard that it was said by them of old." But the "R" migrated to who knows where, and the quote read "You have head that it was said." The reason for the repeated misspelled word is attributed to the marvelous "cut and paste" ability of computer software. So the mistake was perpetuated because of an original mistake and my inability to catch the mistake before making subsequent slides. Some of you got tickled, though I could not, from my perspective understand why so many of you were smiling like you were.

We all make spelling mistakes from time to time. Here are a few that I came across in my research for this article: A sign on a high school marque during "Literacy Improvement Week" read: "Laeping to Literacy." A learning center in Georgia placed a sign in front of the property. It was improperly titled: "Chalenger Learning Center." Another school had the sign at the street crossing spelled "Shcool Crossing." Spelling errors are always embarrassing. Just how embarrassing depends upon the nature and location of that spelling mistake. A spelling mistake on a large sign is a pretty big deal. When that sign is advertising the services of a school, it's an even bigger deal. And when the word that has been incorrectly spelled is 'grammar'... well, that's about as embarrassing as it gets. No wonder the school officials were embarrassed when at a Kansas City school the sign out front read: "Christian Brothers' Grammer School." One more, and then I'll move one. A news reporter was covering a public event honoring Martin Luther King, and happened to take a picture of two women carrying signs alluding to Mr. King's famous statement, "I have a dream." One sign read, "I have a draem"; the other "I have a deram."

Now back to my spelling blunder. I take consolation in the fact that I am not the only one who makes spelling mistakes. It seems, however, that not only do I make my fair share, I seem to excel on occasions. The first book I published was a little 250 page book, "Studies in Galatians." I was so proud the day I picked up the 1,000 copies just hot off the press. I immediately opened one of the boxes, took out a book, and flipped open the book to examine the quality of the product. The first thing I saw was a spelling error! And I was not even looking for spelling errors. How embarrassing! Since most of us make mistakes on spelling from time to time, I thought I might make just a few observations and lessons we might learn from just such an occasion.

First, we should be manly enough to admit our mistakes when pointed out. It would have been foolish to simply dismiss the accusations that I had misspelled a word in my slide presentation with a wave of the hand and arrogantly proclaim: "Mistake? Who me? Make a mistake?" Yet there are multitudes who, when embarrassed by their mistakes, refuse to take the blame. It seems that politicians and college professors are among the worst. A close runner up are the environmentalists who simply refuse to entertain the idea that their global warming theories might just be a mistake. Spelling mistakes, and even a misguided position one might take on global warming might not have devastating consequences, but the humility necessary to bring one to repentance could spell the difference between where one will spend eternity.

Second, if you make a mistake it proves that you are human. We have all heard about the man who claimed he only made one mistake in life and that was the time he mistakenly thought he had been wrong but as it turned out he was right. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). Refusal to admit occasional sin is an indication of the absence of truth.

Third, repentance is the key that unlocks the pathway to correction. Repentance is simply a change of action based upon a change of mind. Biblical repentance is always preceded by godly sorrow (2 Cor. 10). An occasional misspelled word may not call for "godly sorrow," unless of course the misspelled word in some way led to more serious consequences. On the other hand, mistakes when it comes to one's relationship to God are serious and the only avenue for correcting a severed relationship with God comes through repentance.

Finally, we should be grateful to those who take the time to help us recognize and recover from sin. The brother who is willing to risk your friendship to point out error in your life is a true brother indeed. "Brethren, even if a man be overtaken in any trespass, ye who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness: looking to thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Gal. 6:1). He who is courageous enough to point out your sin is simply doing what God commanded him to do. Personally, I am thankful when a brother points out my sin, for I know when he does that that he cares for my soul.

My spell check did not catch my mistake last Sunday evening. So I guess I can blame it on the machine, our crazy language, and my inattention to what I was doing. Oh, one more thing. At least I know you were paying attention; that beets beats an audience whose eyes are open but whose mind is asleep!

~~~~~



Saturday, March 1, 2014

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

For The Journey

Keith Wishum recently shared some rules to equip us for our journey through
life:

Each year some 2,000 eager hikers set out with high hopes of walking the
entire 2,100 mile length of the Appalachian Trail as it meanders through the
mountains of eastern states [of the U.S.] from Springer Mountain in north
Georgia all the way to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Only a few make it. Of those
who begin the trek, only about 150 complete the trail. Following a couple of
simple rules of backpacking could keep many of them from failing.

The first is: PACK LIGHT! One guy struggled over the first 40 miles of
mountainous terrain carrying a propane bottle - the big kind like you use
for your gas grill in the backyard! Another hiker tried to travel the
rugged trail pushing a grocery buggy full of supplies. . One couple brought
along their scuba gear because they thought it would be fun to go diving in
the rivers and lakes along the trail. (They shipped the scuba gear back home
and continued.)

Even if you don't intend to do any hiking, you may still want to remember
the "Pack light" rule. It's a Biblical principle for life. We are just
passing through this world as "aliens and strangers on earth" (Hebrews
11:13). So, it's foolish to get too attached to things which may hold us
back. In fact, God advises us to lighten our load - to "throw off
everything that hinders" (Hebrews 12:1). If you are feeling weighed down,
maybe it's because you are.

"Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and
let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).
We must turn from our sins in repentance, but we must also turn to Christ
for cleansing. Jesus Christ, God' Son, died on the cross for our sins (1
Corinthians 15:1-4). Through Him, we may have the forgiveness of our sins
(Ephesians 1:7).

To be cleansed by the blood of Christ, we must place our faith and trust in
Jesus (Acts16:30-31), 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 our sins (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3-4).

Wishum continues: The second simple rule of hiking is: STAY ON THE TRAIL!
Much of the Appalachian Trail is miles from any kind of road. The trail
twists and turns so that it is difficult to keep a sense of direction. Other
trails cross or branch off the AT. It would be easy to get lost, and, once
lost, very difficult to be found. The good news is that the Trail is
clearly marked with white paint blazes on trees every 200 yards or so. All
you have to do is keep an eye open for those white marks and stay on the
trail.

Life can be disorienting, too. And getting off the right course can be even
more deadly than wandering off the AT. Again, though, the way is clearly
marked! God sent his son to mark the course for us. All we must do to stay
on the safe path is "fix our eyes on Jesus" (Hebrews 12:2).

God has promised: "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we
have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son
cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).

Wishum concludes: It doesn't matter whether you ever hike the Appalachian
Trail. It does matter, however, whether you walk the straight and narrow
path to God's house. To succeed at either, remember these simple rules: Pack
light, and Stay on the Trail.

Won't YOU submit your life to the Savior and follow Him all the way to
Heaven?

David A. Sargent

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