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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Boston Ferns

For the past two years we have hung a Boston Fern on our back patio, both years we have had birds silver, furry, lining. She showed me the nest and I told her, “I know why it has a silver lining…. You cut my hair on the back patio the other day and they must have pick up the hair left on the ground to line their nest.”

 

Yes, my hair is a kind of silver white, that’s not unusual in our day and age is it. They tell us that we as a nation are living longer and longer. The current average life expectancy is 78.7 years which is an improvement over the 68.7 years of 1960. In other words, there are more “gray heads” around than there used to be. Some have referred to this as “the graying of America”.

 

I’ve been increasingly bothered by the shift in our nation over the past 20 or 30 years. There seems to be a lack of respect for the “older generation”. You can see it almost everywhere you go and throughout all aspects of our society. Yet, this is exactly the opposite of how God’s word tells us it should be.

 

Proverbs 16:31 tells us, “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.” In Leviticus 19:32 we read: “Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God.’

 

It seems significant to me that God links showing respect for the elderly with revering our God? Now I’m not writing this to beg for sympathy for me as I age, like many of my age group on the inside I feel a lot younger than I look on the outside. For me personally I don’t necessarily want or need special treatment, but God’s word says we who have gray hair deserve it. When is the last time you saw a young person give their seat to someone who was older than them. When was the last time you saw the “gray heads” being allowed to go first through a line or even through a door simply because it was the respectful thing to do? Our county and our schools will not teach this lesson, but then it is not their job to teach it, it is the job of us who are parents or leaders in our churches.

 

The gray in our hair is more than just something put there by nature. It is part of the silver lining God is lining our personal nests with…. It may not often appear that it is near us or that we have access to it, but if we stop and think about it is always there if we are near our God. In Isaiah 46:4, God says: “Even to your old age I will be the same, And even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; And I will bear you and I will deliver you.

 

Our God “Has done it” and will continue. Even when we don’t feel very appreciated or respected the one who truly counts in our life appreciates, loves and respects us.

 

--Russ Lawson

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Weather and the book of Revelation

1.     In Rev. 4:1-6 we have several references to weather.

2.     Rev. 4 is especially noteworthy because it is a brief glimpse into what heaven is like.

3.     Ezekiel said something very similar – Ezek. 1:28 – READ

4.     The rainbow promise in Gen. 9 is suggestive of divine mercy.

5.     The rainbow imagery Rev. 4 is also suggestive of mercy, plus a fantastic description of God’s glory.

6.     In verse 5 of Rev. 4 we have references to “thunder and lightning.”

7.     A politician might look at this and the first thing that enters his mind is “climate change.”

8.     Thunder and lighting are examples of POWER.

9.     A flash of lightning can heat the air around it to a temperature 5 times hotter than surface of sun.

10.  One of our hymns says “our God is able” – truer words have never been spoken.

11.  If we look past Rev. 4 and go to Rev. 6, we go from thunder and lightning to “wind.”

12.   Rev. 6:12-14 – READ

13.  John describe a “great wind” which caused unripe fruit (figs) to come off a tree.

14.  In the Old Testament “stars” are an image to describe nations, rules and power.

15.   Based on all the OT imagery used by John, it is reasonable to conclude this is what John describe here.

16.  In verse 15 John spoke about earthly rulers and authorities.

17.   God tells us those people who are unlike fruit – they are powerfully attached to someone or something –

18.  A time is coming when they are going to be shaken loose.

19.  Verses 16-17 tell us what they unsaved will be thinking and saying – READ

AS JOHN DIRECTS OUR ATTENTION TO WIND AT THE END OF REVELATION 6, WE CONTINUE TO READ ABOUT WIND IN THE NEXT CHAPTER.

 

1.     Rev. 7:1-3 – READ
In the book of Revelation we have 3 especially prominent images – seals, trumpets and vials.

2.     Each of these 3 items is associated with the number 7.

3.     In Rev. 7 we come to the 7th seal.

4.     When we get to the 7th seal, 7th trumpet, and 7th vial, we come to the end of time.
Squeezed in between these two seals are the events in Rev. 7.

5.     Is the wind being held back a gentle breeze or mighty gusts which would result in destruction?

6.     Rev. 7 – verses 9-10 – READ

7.     God has power over the weather; He also has the power to forgive sin.

8.     He has the power to help those who are His people and the power to overthrow those who are not.

9.      If man can be overwhelmed by hail and a great downpour, what about facing an all-powerful God?

10.  We need to be “washed in the blood of the lamb” and “walking in the light?”  Is this true of us?

 

 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Beneath the Cross of Jesus Elizabeth C. Clephane

Most of us have favorite songs and hymns. My favorite category of hymns is songs about the cross. I love the somber, dramatic feel of Beneath the Cross of Jesus, a hymn penned right after the close of the Civil War by Elizabeth C. Clephane and one set to the music we sing with it by Frederick Maker a dozen years later in 1881. The cross of Calvary is treated as a metaphor of protection for one in a wilderness. One might envision the wandering Israelites making their way to the Promised Land and apply that, figuratively, to our journey through this world of sin toward heaven. But the song will change scenes multiple times until, in the last verse, it is a most personal challenge to each of us to be faithful disciples of this crucified Lord.

 

The first verse introduces the foot of the cross as a shadow of a mighty rock where we find relief and a home to rest in from trials and difficulties while pilgrims in a weary land (the world). We might easily think of Israel's exodus from Egypt. Some songbooks have a notation to define "fain," a word used in the first line. It means "gladly." I am happy to shelter behind Christ's cross in adversities.

 

The second verse builds upon the metaphor of the first verse, then subtly shifts to an event from the book of Genesis. The cross is, again, a shelter and refuge. But, then, he shifts to an allusion to Jacob's dream (Genesis 28:10ff). He has left his father's house and his brother's wrath and beds down near Haran. He lays down, using stones for a pillow, and falls asleep. Moses writes, "He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, "I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants" (12-13). This is where God reaffirms the promise He had made to Jacob's grandfather and father to make of them a great nation. It symbolized hope, reward, and heavenly assistance. The song writer says the cross is just like the ladder in Jacob's dream, except that I ascend to heaven by way of the cross. Again, Clephane uses a poetic, if obscure word, in this verse: "trysting." The word means "meeting." At the cross, God's perfect love and justice meet. His love is shown and His justice satisfied by Christ's sacrifice.

 

The third verse becomes a straightforward look at a literal remembrance of the graphic, horrific suffering of Jesus on the cross. She focuses on what our reaction should be-a smitten heart, tears, and a proper conclusion. How great is His love! How unworthy I am that He would demonstrate it to me (cf. Romans 5:8).

 

The last verse is the challenge to respond to that sacrifice. We are to live in the shadow of the cross, daily reflecting upon it and letting it affect how we live. We are to ignore all else to focus on Him. Clephane seems to allude to Paul's words in Galatians 6:14, if ever so subtly. Too, there's a challenge to not be ashamed of Jesus and the cross, but reserve our shame only for the sin in our life that made the cross necessary.

 

It is beautifully and intricately woven. Despite some unfamiliar, even archaic, poetic words, it is powerfully written. What a great song to prepare our minds for the Lord's Supper or to sing when our motives gets clouded and our priorities get muddled. May we take the time, when we sing it, to consider the truth it teaches and the challenge it contains.

 

--Neal Pollard

 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A dirty face

Wash Your Face

When you see a dirty face in the mirror, you wash your face, not the mirror.  Likewise when we see error in our lives portrayed by truth revealed in the Bible, let us simply clean up our lives and quit criticizing the Bible.  What do you think of a man who breaks a mirror because he doesn't like what he sees?  Then what do you think of one who criticizes the truth that simply reveals the inner man that we can't see with the physical eye?

- by Leslie Diestelkamp

God sees all


God and Man


Remember that God sees the whole picture.  He sees all the past; He sees all the present; and He has the power to see all the future.  He can see the end from the beginning, and He knows the destiny of every person and the solution to every problem.  He loves us and is always available to us, but He will force neither Himself nor His will upon us.  As long as we live, we are allowed to choose. He is concerned about our true welfare and happiness - here and hereafter.  With Him on our side every thing will turn out well (Romans 8:28,31); but if He must be against us, nothing will turn out right.

- by Bill Crews

 

Run the race with endurance

Helping Each Other Run the Race

    I like to run but I get off track pretty easy. It is easy to quit because of aches and pains, time restraints, kid’s activities, etc. But right now I’m on track and I want to share with you three reasons that I am. Here they are: Cheryl, Ted and Paul. 

    Cheryl, Ted and Paul do some running (or cycling). That encourages me to do what I think I should do. From time to time we talk about what we are doing (or not doing!). Honestly, the few words we exchange every couple weeks or so is sometimes the difference between me quitting or running on! I hate telling Ted, “No, I didn’t run this week!” 

    It works in a similar fashion spiritually. We need, and others need, just a little bit of encouragement. Christians need fellowship and interaction with one another. Christianity was not meant to be lived in isolation. It is a good song, but it is not merely My God and I! In a sense, it is My God, My Brother, and I. Part of the strength of the early church must have resonated from being together so frequently (Acts 2:46). 

    The Hebrew writer says that we are to run the race with endurance (Heb. 12:1). That sounds like a solo performance, doesn’t it? If we look at that passage more closely though, we see that he alludes to the “great cloud of witnesses” that surrounds us. In the context this has reference to the many great men and women of God who have crossed the finish line and who are portrayed as cheering on those who are still running the race. 

    Someone may need you to help them keep on running! Consider small and simple ways you can encourage a brother or sister in Christ. Remember that every Christian needs encouragement. Remember also that you will be encouraged just as much or more than the one you seek to encourage!

Daren Schroeder

 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Baburam Jakhar

Baburam Jakhar watched the religious ceremony intently. After all, a part of this ceremony involved a snake charmer and a live cobra. Part of the ceremony involved wrapping the cobra around Jakhar's neck, to which he stood like a statue. However, when this was attempted, the snake struck the side of Jakhar's head, injecting deadly venom into him. No one seemed to react much to the bite. It was kind of subtle, but Jakhar did say "ouch" and later touched his head to check for blood. The charmer didn't say anything. In fact, he basically ignored the victim until he began losing consciousness. When it was clear something serious was happening, they rushed Jakhar to a local medicine man, and then to the hospital. Tragically, Jakhar died from the bite. The snake charmer fled and is currently being hunted by the authorities.

 

There is no telling what Jakhar was thinking. Maybe he trusted the snake charmer since they often remove the snake's fangs to be on the safe side. Maybe he just didn't think he would get bit. Maybe he just didn't think it through. Whatever the reason, it turned out to be a very sad and terrible ending. However, this situation relates remarkably well to how temptation can enter our lives.

 

1) We trusted someone. Whether it's a friend, a neighbor, a family member, or even someone we just met, sometimes we trust that people won't lead us into a situation where our better judgment would have kept us from. In instances like these, we fell directly into the deception Paul was warning about, "Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good morals'" (1 Corinthians 15:33). This doesn't mean we should never trust anyone, but we should certainly be cautious, particularly when we are being led into a situation with alarm bells ringing in our minds.

 

2) We didn't think we would get bit. I don't know how many times I've heard, "That sin just doesn't really bother me." Perhaps there is no greater danger of falling than when we conceitedly think we are strong. 1 Corinthians 10:12 says it clearly, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall." Like snakes, sin doesn't care who gets bit. It will ruthlessly continue to strike until it finds a weak point. The best way to keep from being bit is to never even be within striking distance.

 

3) We just weren't thinking. Sometimes situations occur when we simply just didn't think it through. Honestly, all sin is basically the result of not thinking things through. If we adequately thought about the impact that sin has on our lives, we would sin much less frequently. This is why we need reminders. We need to be reminded by the Lord's Supper. We need to be reminded through Bible classes and sermons. We need to remind ourselves. We need the Lord to remind us through our daily interaction with His word. This will prevent us from entering into a potentially sinful situation without thinking.

 

Sin is tragic. The more we can prevent it, the better life will be. Let's guard ourselves better so we don't get bit.

 

-- Brett Petrillo

 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Presidential campaign of 2016

“He’s Just Not Presidential”

 

During the Presidential campaign of 2016 it was frequently heard (especially by the opposition) that Donald Trump “is just not Presidential.” Would someone please define what it means to be “Presidential”? Webster says that the word means “relating to a president or presidency” (Yahoo On-Line Dictionary). I have read of “presidential races,” “presidential orders,” “presidential polls,” and “presidential debates,” but the way this word “presidential” is being bandied about refers to something completely different. I really think the politically “elite” have a concept of a President that is completely foreign to the intentions of our founding fathers. The “entitlement mentality” has brought us to the point that we perceive of the President as a doting Grandfather who presides over the well-being of the citizenry of the nation and signs into law those bills passed by Congress that continue to feed the insatiable desire and wants of a nation that has gouged itself on the pleasures of this life and the handouts that Uncle Sam has doled out at the taxpayer’s expense. So when someone comes along who is “out of the norm,” or acts in a way with which we are not accustomed, the nation throws a little temper tantrum and screams, “He’s not Presidential!”

 

As we come to the conclusion of our study of the Sermon on the Mount it might be fitting to ask, “Does Jesus act Kingly?” Do His actions and words represent that of a King, or do these things suggest that Jesus was nothing more than a person with delusions of grandeur and power? Well, it depends what standard you use as your measuring stick. Earthly kings exercise power, possess wealth, and usually have little concern for the wellbeing of their citizens. Yes, there have been exceptions, but I think I can say without fear of contradiction that the larger part of earthly kings fits that description.

 

Pilate asked Jesus, “Art thou the king of the Jews?” to which Jesus replied, “Thou sayest” (Matt. 27:11). No, Jesus was not a king in the sense which Pilate asked the question, but He was (and is) a King nonetheless; in fact He is “King of kings and Lord of Lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). While Pilate (and so many others like him) was a despot, Jesus was a servant. While earthly kings seek after wealth, the accumulation of material things never entered into the quest of our Lord. Instead, Jesus came to “seek and to save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10). Pilate used brute force to secure his power over the people, while Jesus told His disciples to “put up the sword into the sheath” (John 18:11). Jesus was nothing like what the materialistically minded religious elite expected in the coming Messiah. Had the liberal news media of our day been around during the earthly ministry of our Lord there is no doubt they would have pointed a finger at Jesus and declared, “He is just not Kingly!”

 

Now let the evidence speak for itself. The Sermon on the Mount is a manifestation of the majesty of our Lord. Every word in every verse of these three chapters bespeaks His Kingly nature. Take the words of this Sermon and lift them out of the context and those who read and study its contents will declare without equivocation that these are the words of a King! Place them in their context, and the student cannot help but realize that these words set forth the constitution of the kingdom over which that King rules. The Beatitudes serve as the preamble to the Constitution of Jesus’ spiritual kingdom. They immediately focus our attention on the inner character of the citizens of this Kingdom. Jesus does not say, “Blessed are the physically strong, the wealthy, the educated, or those with large and powerful armies at their disposal.” Instead our Lord places the premium on those who are “poor in spirit,” “they that mourn,” “that hunger and thirst after righteousness,” “are merciful,” “pure in heart,” and “peacemakers” (5:3-9). Earthly kings could care less of the inner character of their subjects so long as they pay their taxes and obey the laws of the land; but our King demands that His subjects develop those inner character traits that determine whether or not they will be a part of His eternal kingdom.

 

The preamble is followed by the Bill of Rights that sets forth in no uncertain terms the relationship that the citizens of His kingdom must maintain toward their fellow man. The King demands a “righteousness” that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees (5:20). When the heart is changed, the way we treat our fellow humans is changed as well. Remove hatred from the hearts of men and the killing will cease. Stop the lusting and the adultery will disappear. Honesty toward those around us will make a better society, and the keeping of one’s vows will make better men and women.

 

Article 1 in the King’s Constitution reminds us of our obligation to this King: “Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them: else ye have no reward with your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 6:1). The history of this world is strewn with kings and kingdom that have forgotten or never heeded the warning from David: “The wicked shall be turned back unto Sheol, Even all the nations that forget God” (Psa. 19:17).

 

Article 2 in the King’s Constitution warns: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24). The sooner men learn this truth the better off they will be.

 

Our King closes the Sermon on the Mount with various instructions that warn, encourage, and admonish (chapter 7), with the final warning that we build on the solid foundation of God’s word, a truth beautifully portrayed in the parable of the wise and foolish builders (7:24-27).

 

Now think about the King that spoke these words. He never possessed wealth, never obtained a formal education, and never sought to overthrow a single earthly kingdom with military might. Yet He managed to overcome every earthly kingdom by an army devoted to Him and His teaching. He never wrote a book, and yet all the libraries of the world could not hold the books that could have been written about Him (John 21:25). He so influenced the world that every first day of the week His devoted followers gather to remember His life, death, resurrection, all in anticipation of His promised return. Someone has noted:

 

The names of the past proud statesman of Greece and Rome have come and gone. The names of past scientists, philosophers, and theologians have come and gone; but the name of this Man abounds more and more. Though time has spread two thousand years between the people of this generation and the scene of His crucifixion, yet He still lives (Author unknown).

 

Only the King of kings could have spoken the words recorded in this wonderful Sermon. While some men have decried its value, attacked its contents, and ridiculed its Author, the fact remains that all who have lived by its precepts, have lived and died better men and women.

 

Jesus may not act kingly, as men measure kingliness, but rest assured, dear reader, that no man ever deserved the title of King as does Jesus our Lord. Truly this wonderful Sermon on the Mount helps us see the majesty of Jesus. Would that men would open their eyes!

~~~~~

 

By Tom Wacaster

 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

How to live with no regrets

Regrets At Death

I have never heard and I never expect to hear of one who, when about to die:     
-Regrets that he became a Christian.
-Regrets that he tried earnestly to live as a Christian.
-Regrets that he gave so much time to prayer and study of the Bible.
-Regrets that he gave a generous portion of his money to do the Lord's work.
-Regrets that he tried to reach others who were lost in sin around him.
-Regrets that he assembled conscientiously and regularly with the brethren for worship, exhortation and edification.
 
But I have heard of many and expect to hear of more who, when about to die:
-Regretted not becoming a child of the King.
-Regretted not trying earnestly to live as a Christian.
-Regretted that they had not given much time to prayer and study of the Bible.
-Regretted they had not given a generous portion of their money to do the Lord's work.
-Regretted they had not tried to reach others around them who were lost in sin.
-Regretted they had not assembled conscientiously and regularly with their brethren for worship, exhortation and edification.
 
What about you? When you are facing death, as each of us will one day, will you have any regrets? Do not wait until it is too late to set your priorities straight. What is important is what you can take with you into eternity. Anything else has to be of much less value.

- by Bill Crews

 

walk by faith sermon illustration

Faith Is Like That

On a trip to the mountains of the American west we decided to cross a pass that was above 10,000 feet.  We could see the summit in the distance and started on the designated route, following markings the map told us would take us there.  There were times the summit was obscured by trees and turns in the road.  There were a series of difficult switchbacks and dangerous curves that called for caution.  Sometimes it seemed the grade was down hill away from the summit, or even carrying us back where we came from.  An occasional car was disabled along the way and we wondered if that might happen to us.  Someone would ask how much further it was and we wondered if it was worth the effort.

We reached the top and felt the joy of achievement.  We paused and beheld the beauties we could not see from below.  From this vantage point we could see for miles, whereas below we were limited by distance and obstructions.  We saw the road we had traveled and from the top it didn't look near that difficult and long; it now had a beauty we could not appreciate as we traveled it.  The journey up was well worth the effort for the joy we now had.

Walking by faith is like that.  God in His word gives us just a glimpse of the summit, enough that we long to be there, a place of rest and beauty beyond imagination.  We may not fully understand until we reach the end but it will be worth it.  The fact that others "break down" will not stop us.  The difficulties of "switch-backs" and "dangerous curves" do not frighten us.  God has set up "guard rails" and "sign posts" for our protection and guidance.  Though we be weary and wonder if it be worthwhile, and how much longer we must climb, "we faint not ... our... inward man is renewed ... our light affliction worketh for us … an eternal weight of glory." To attain "a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens ... we walk by faith and not by sight: we are of good courage ... we make it our aim to be well pleasing in his sight" (2 Cor. 4:16-5:9).

By faith, Abraham sojourned, looking "for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God."  He died in faith, having seen the promises afar, "desiring a better country, that is an heavenly," for God prepared for him a city (Heb. 11:8-16).  Abraham's faith was tried but it never wavered in unbelief, rather waxed strong, giving God the glory, being fully assured that what God had promised He could perform (Rom. 4:20,21).  "They that are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham" and are "heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:9,29).

"For the which cause I suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day" (2 Tim. 1:12).  That's what walking by faith is all about.

- by Morris D. Norman

 

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