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Monday, December 17, 2012

Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut shooting

When the Gentile world decided to cast God out of their lives, and "change the glory of God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things" (Rom. 1:21), they began an inevitable process of plunging into moral depravity. The catalogue of sins listed in Romans 1:24-32 contain some of the most heinous and vile acts imaginable. Included in that list of sins is the loss of "natural affection" (vs. 31). The Greek word is 'astorgos.' The base word here is 'storgos,' and with the negative particle, means the absence of, or being without "natural affection." The word 'storgos' means "to cherish affectionately" (Strong). With the negative particle, Thayer defines the word as "inhuman, unloving" (Thayer). As the events unfolded surrounding the horrible killings in Connecticut this past Friday, the one question that occupied the thinking of many was, "What compels any man to walk into an elementary school and take the lives of children ages 5 to 10?" The death of anyone is bad enough, but to randomly take the lives of innocent children is evidence of a sin-sick soul that has been so overwhelmed by evil that it has lost all ability to reason logically. It is becoming increasingly apparent that our society is nearing, or has surpassed the point where the Gentile world stood when Paul wrote that letter to the church at Rome. The rampant disregard for life, from aborting the unborn child, to the taking of life in some random act of madness, bespeaks our world's plunge into the moral gutter occupied by those of whom Paul speaks. Authorities seek answers; society weeps; and it seems that few, if any realize that the cause of such inhuman acts has been revealed in the word of God. In a Fox News opinion item, Dr. Keith Ablow made this astute observation regarding the events of last Friday:

After the horrific events of Friday at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, an understandable and frequent question has been, "What sort of person can shoot innocent children?" The answer to that question, in short, is this: (1) Certainly, someone who has lost the capacity for human empathy--that God-given quality that allows us to resonate with the suffering of others, and (2) Probably, someone who is, probably unconsciously, making a statement about the random nature of destructiveness, about how innocence and youth confer no safety upon an individual, and about how his rage--likely unexamined and left to fester underground--knows no bounds. The psychiatric diagnoses that can be connected to a lack of empathy are numerous. Someone can have fallen victim to schizophrenia and be suffering the delusion that others must die to save the earth. Hence, there is no grief for the people who must die. Someone can be drug dependent and inebriated to the point that his core empathy is suppressed, due to intoxication. Someone can be personality disordered--a "sociopath" who steals, cheats and commits violent acts without guilt. Yet, these diagnoses still don't speak to the underlying cause of someone losing empathy. What about that?  Regardless of what diagnosis we speak of, we still need to think about what causes those conditions marked by having little or no feeling for others [all emphasis mine, TW].

As I watched CBS news, it was made evident that everything possible was being done, and would be done, to determine the cause of this man's actions. "No stone will be left unturned," so says a Federal Investigator on the scene. Evidently city, state and federal authorities are looking into what might have compelled such an act of violence. Possible suggestions, theories, and scenarios immediately surfaced: Connections with some middle east radical terrorist group; drugs; revenge; desire to simply be popular and see if one might go down in the history books as the worst mass murderer in American history. We will probably never know what motivated that young man to do what he did, because in the wake of his horrible deed he ended his own life as well. But if Paul's description of the Gentile world has any application at all, we can know the root cause of what happened in that quiet little town in Connecticut.

As I listened to CBS News report, I wondered: "In the search for a cause, will authorities take a close look at the young man's educational background? Will they investigate what the public schools did to brainwash this young man into thinking that we are nothing more than a product of evolution? Did the humanistic values implanted in the mind of this man in some science class, or some class on philosophy have any bearing at all on what he did? Does our government share any blame at all with an ever increasing agenda that disrespects life, albeit it abortion, infanticide, or euthanasia?" Why does the death of those 20 children in that remote elementary school in the northeast surprise us, when abortion clinics are killing 136 times that same number of children every single day? Has the expulsion of God from every vestige of the mainstream of American life played any part at all in this, and other similar tragedies? There are consequences to action, and seeds sown eventually have a way of producing fruit akin to and in greater abundance than the original seed itself. What we are witnessing is a meltdown of a once mighty nation that has gorged itself on humanistic philosophy, made itself drunk with material success, and isolated itself from the very God Who blessed this nation in first place. When men walk into a movie theater, an elementary school, a crowded mall, or any other public place and do all within their power to end the lives of other human beings, they are simply acting out what deep inside they believe about life, moral responsibility, and respect for one's fellow man. They are demonstrating first-hand what it means when men loose "natural affection" for their fellow man.

Why are we shocked at what happened this past Friday? Saddened, yes! Angered? Absolutely! Every time another sin sick soul takes it upon himself to randomly kill innocent people - especially innocent children - we scratch our heads and wring our hands and ask, "WHY?" Whether it be a crazed young man in Connecticut, a mad man in Aurora, Colorado, or a lone gunman on some remote street corner in Anytown, USA - in every case, it can be traced to the loss of natural affection for one's fellow man, and for life in general.
--by Tom Wacaster

Sunday, December 16, 2012

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. (Matt. 24:36

I've got to hurry and get this last editorial published for you to consider before next Friday rolls around. You know, the 21st of December, 2012 which, according to the Mayans, is when the world, as we know it, will end. We'll get back to the Mayan's in a moment, but first let's look at some other predictions about the end of the world and the result of those.

I'll lead off this section of our lesson by asking you a question that Christ asked His disciples, recorded in Luke 8:25 "Where is your faith?" I think that's appropriate to start off with here because, to me, that's the basis of whether you attach any credence to predictions by men (there's been many) as to the end of the world.

When we have another prediction of this sort I always think about the cartoons showing a man wearing a "sandwich" sign reading "REPENT - THE END IS NEAR!" He may very well be right because we don't know when the end will come, which is why we're admonished in several scriptures to be ready at all times, one of which is Matt. 25:13. Another scripture we need to know and understand is the one found in Hebrews 9:27. That our death is "the end of the world" as far as our soul is concerned and it's at that point that we'll be "judged."

But, it seems to me that a lot of "prophets of doom" don't seem to care about what the Bible says about no one knowing the "day and hour" when God says that we've gone as far as we're going, time wise. But, what else I find interesting in studying these end-of-the-world predictors is that many of them base their predictions on "calculations" of the scriptures. I guess that they only see the passages they want to see and ignore anything that contradicts their "calculations."

Another thing that amazes me is how much faith a lot of people put in these predictions. Which is why I asked the question: "Where is your faith?" Is it in all of "THE WORD" or do you place your faith in these "doomsday prophets?" I actually know people who believe this latest prediction by the Mayans, or say they do.

Trust me when I tell you that the Mayans are just the latest in a long line of false predictors of the world ending on a certain date. I've got my own opinion of the Mayan calendar, which this prediction is based on, and I'll share that with you in a moment. But first, let me just provide you with a little information regarding some previous predictions that turned out to be wrong. And, there are many to pick from, but here's a sampling.

In the 1st century, almost from the time that Jesus ascended to heaven, many believed that He would return in their generation. (Mt. 25 and 1Thess. 4). A supposed Christian prophetess by the name of Thiota predicted the world to end in the year 848. This caused much fear and alarm which resulted in a lot of people giving her gifts for her prayers to allay this doom. She later confessed that a priest had put her up to predicting the end of the world for profit. (Hmmm, profit?)

Certain dates have had an influence on predictions of "the end." Many thought that Jan. 1, 1000 would bring "the end" as this was a 1000 years after Jesus' death. One prediction that I thought very interesting, and illustrative of what I said earlier about ignoring Bible passages, is the one made by some astrologers that the world would be destroyed "by a flood" on Feb. 1, 1524. Obviously they didn't take into consideration what God said in Gen. 9:11 and 15. Or, if they did, they believed their calculations more than the Bible's words.

Even Christopher Columbus made a prediction that the world would end in 1658. Do you think that superstition played a part in the prediction of the world ending in 1666? Another interesting predictor was a Puritan minister by the name of Cotton Mather. He made three separate predictions that the world would end in 1697, then revised it to 1716, then finally 1736, all of which were wrong.

The Shakers even got into the prediction act by saying 1792 would bring the end and then updated it to 1794 when the first one proved wrong. Of course, so did the second one. William Miller (the Millerites, later to become the 7th Day Adventists) specifically designated Mar. 21, 1844 as the day the world would end. Didn't happen and he said that he'd "miscalculated the scriptures" and moved the date to Oct. 22, 1844. Guess what? Wrong again. Sad thing about his prediction is that thousands believed him and lost everything they had because of their faith in him.

Some of you may remember a guy named Herbert W. Armstrong, a radio preacher who started his own church known as the Worldwide Church of God. He was a prolific prognosticator of doom. First it was 1936, then 1943, then 1972 and finally 1975 before he gave up. Maybe because he died in 1986 is the reason we haven't seen any more predictions from him.

World famous psychic Jeane Dixon said that the planets would align on Feb. 4, 1962 and bring the end of the world. Since we're still here I guess that doesn't speak very well about her "powers." Helps us to understand why God forbade Israel from having anything to do with these sorts of people. (Dt. 18:10-12).

She wasn't the only psychic to predict the end as Edgar Cayse also got into the act. He said we'd come to "the end" in 2000. We didn't and I see that psychic "powers" are equal between the sexes. Chuck Smith, who started Calvary Chapel, predicted the world would end in 1981. Though not a psychic, he was wrong too.

The well-known TV evangelist, Pat Robertson even made some faulty predictions. He first said the world would end in either October or November, 1982, then when that didn't pan out, he revised it to April 29, 2007. Alas, even with the aid of television, he's no better that any of his predecessors at predicting the end of the world.

Prior to our Mayans, probably the latest prognosticator of "the end" is a man named Harold Camping who predicted May 21, 2011 as the big event then, like many of his predecessors, had to update it to Oct. 21, 2011 when May 22nd rolled around. Many of you may not know this but, he had earlier said that 1994 and 1995 would bring "the end." He's still wrong on all accounts.

I see the Mayans as just another blip on the "end-of-the-world radar." I told you that I'd offer you my opinion of their prediction based on their calendar. Since their calendar is inscribed on a stone and Dec. 21st, 2012 is where the calendar ends, could it possibly be that they just ran out of rock?

Here's how I'll close today: if Saturday the 22nd dawns we can add the Mayans to the long list of false "dooms-day prophets" and have our faith reassured that what God says in His Word is true. That "no man" knows when "the end" will occur. Until then, we need to be ready for it at any time.

                            "Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh

                                      at an hour when ye think not." Luke 12:40

Ron Covey

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Alzheimer's disease

"The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer's disease (AD). AD is a
progressive and irreversible brain disorder. The actual cause of AD is
unknown. AD slowly damages, and then destroys, a person's memory, judgment,
reasoning skills, personality, autonomy, and bodily functions"

A.R. "Ross" Gallaher's grandmother had Alzheimer's. He recently reflected
on lessons learned from her illness:

I loved my grandmother on my Mom's side of the family because she doted over
her grandchildren. No matter what we did, she always treated us as if we
were the best children in the world. Our Christmases were spent in South
Florida every year running and playing in the orange groves my grandparents
owned. She always had more presents under the tree than I have seen in any
other family setting because she was such a giving person and also felt it
was important to wrap each gift for anyone on her list.

These images were only enhanced when my grandmother succumbed to
Alzheimer's. The last time I saw my grandmother alive, she was in a nursing
home unable to recognize me, my wife Teresa, or any family member including
my mom. I could see that Mom was devastated. It was such a sad end to the
memories and the life of this wonderful lady.

But though she could not remember family and friends, I noticed that she was
tremendously happy. Mom explained that in her mind, she was back home in
Troy AL with her playmates and the family members she had when she was a
child. She did not know that she was an adult; she was back home in familiar
surroundings feeling as safe and happy as any child should feel in the
loving protection of her childhood home. She had forgotten any pain,
hardship, difficulty or loss given to her by life or humanity. Everyone was
her friend or possible playmate.

Though I would not desire this disease on anyone, one element is worth
examining for its glorious value...

Alzheimer's causes memory loss over time. What would the world be like if we
only knew the good, happy memories of life? What would your life and my life
be like if there were no bad memories, none? Who are you if forgiveness
really did work? What would people say about you if the only parts of your
life revealed to others were warm, wonderful expressions of joy and
contentment? Life would be blissful; a perfect example of the kind of life
Jesus wanted us to have.

Jesus asks us to forgive because He has offered us forgiveness. Jesus asks
us to love because He loved us first. Jesus asks us to have an abundant life
because He gave us access to one.

Jesus asks us to forget because He has forgotten our faults.

Given the choice, I choose "selective Alzheimer's" - abundant life here and
eternal life with the one who remembers me as His child.*

YOU can become God's child by... placing your faith and trust in Jesus,
God's Son, who died on the cross for our sins (Acts 16:30-31), turning from
those sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing Him before men (Romans
10:9-10), and being baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of
sins (Acts 2:38). Then, by continuing to follow Him, YOU can experience the
abundant life now and receive eternal life to come.

Won't YOU accept God's offer on His terms?

-- A.R. "Ross" Gallaher / David A. Sargent

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Acts 10:38

"My Footprints"

On many of the old Westerns that used to play on television, one scene was
familiar: The lawman in pursuit of the bad guys would occasionally dismount
his horse to examine the ground. Using skills that few today possess, he
tell how many were in the fleeing party, which way they were heading, and
far ahead they were. He could discern that information by examining their

Such scenes remind us that we're not as invisible as we might wish. Whether
it's our footprints, fingerprints, or some other evidence we leave behind,
who are determined to know can usually find out where we've been. Thinking
about committing the perfect crime? Based on what I see on today's criminal
investigation programs, I wouldn't advise it. Even one hair that you didn't
know fell from your head might be enough to bring about your conviction.

Naturalists have long encouraged those of us who enjoy the outdoors to "take
nothing but pictures, and leave nothing behind but footprints". In more
years, others urge us to do all we can to minimize our footprints. They're
talking about the impact we have on our environment - using less natural
resources whenever possible. And that's not a bad idea. I'd like for my
grandchildren to enjoy the clean air, water and fuels that I have been
to enjoy.

Let me now turn your attention to a different kind of "footprint" we might
behind, one that could last for years. When future generations track my
what will they learn?

Peter was preaching to Cornelius and his family when he made this assessment
Jesus' life on earth: "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy
and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed
the devil, for God was with Him" (Acts 10:38). That phrase in the middle of
verse catches my attention: "who went about doing good".

As Peter noted, Jesus could do miraculous deeds, like healing illnesses and
casting out demons. I can't do those things today. But I can surely
Jesus in going about doing good. And that, according to the Bible, is just
God expects of me.

Paul gave instructions to Timothy that apply to comfortable Americans:
those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in
uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to
Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to
share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come,
they may lay hold on eternal life" (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

Doing good, being rich in good works, being ready to give and willing to
share -
how many folks like that do you know? Or, let's turn the question around:
many of the folks we know can say that about you and me? What kind of
footprints are we leaving behind us?

Dorcas seems to have been an ordinary Christian. But her legacy reads like
this: She "was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did" (Acts
9:36). No wonder those mourning her passing were weeping (Acts 9:39); that
of person will be missed.

Let us live a life of service to others. In doing so, we'll be walking in
footprints of Jesus.

Timothy D. Hall

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The adjective "light"

We've seen and heard lots of news lately about "Sandy," the storm that struck the East coast late last October, haven't we? Almost daily we hear about the devastation and the resulting clean-up efforts. About all the losses and the heartaches brought by the storm. Seems like "storms" and "heartaches" go together, don't they?

I wasn't there to experience Hurricane Sandy, but I've been in storms before (haven't we all?) both the physical and the other sort of "life storms" that seem to find us at times, no matter where we are. Even though not having been in the area of that storm I can say, with much surety, that a lot of praying went on. Perhaps with a lot of those prayers including the words, "Lord, save me" in them.

I know that I've written editorials on the subject of "storms" before and tied those "storms" into spiritual lessons, but it's always appropriate to look at a lesson on dealing with the "storms" of life. Today seems to be another one of those occasions and I appreciate your considering my words again on the subject.

Before getting into the Biblical references of our lesson, allow me to offer one more commentary: it just seems to me that a lot of people only remember God in the midst of a "storm," whatever shape of form that "storm" is when it comes upon us. It doesn't have to be a "dark and stormy night" like Snoopy starts his stories off with, but "darkness" is really fitting to our "storms," isn't it? The adjective "light" just doesn't come to mind when we talk about "storms," does it?

And "darkness" certainly was part of the scene we're going to use in our Bible reference here today. This reference is found in the 14th chapter of Matthew and in verses 23 thru 33. Please follow along there and make sure that I relate the events in those verses correctly.

First, let's set the scene, so to speak. We know that it was dark because verse 25 tells us that this event occurred "in the fourth watch of the night." That equates to being about 3:00 in the morning. And, we know that it was "a dark and stormy night" because the ship was being "tossed with waves" and the wind "was contrary." Just so that we fully understand this: "contrary" means things like difficult, troubling, hostile or adverse. Generally speaking: something unfavorable.

Certainly not the best time for the apostles of Jesus to be out in the middle of the Sea of Galilee in a little boat. They were there because Jesus had sent them on ahead to the "other side" of the sea while He went onto a mountain to pray.

Now some of the apostles were fishermen and, no doubt, were more used to being in a boat out on the sea, but most of them were occupied on land so, human nature being what it is, I have no trouble seeing them fairly alarmed by their predicament. Me, I'd be scared to death.

And then, to add another fear factor to this scene, they looked out on the water and saw what they thought was a "ghost" coming towards them. (Vs. 26) The Bible says that they were "troubled" by this vision. I'll bet they were. It says that they "cried out in fear." In some places the Bible uses the phrase "sore afraid," which to us Okies, Arkies and Texans means "flat scared."

That's when Jesus called out to them with some words that all of us should take to memory and recall when we're in the midst of our "storms:" "Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid." (ESV) I'm sure that these would have been soothing words for them to hear because it wasn't too long back (Chap. 8) that they had been on the same sea in a little boat, but Jesus had been with them on that occasion. When the storm came up and they were afraid they called out the same thing: "Lord, save us." That's when He "rebuked the winds and the sea" and they calmed down. But, He wasn't with them in the boat this time. (Doesn't that inspire a lesson on "being in the boat with Jesus?)

Thinking about these words brings me to recall some other words of Jesus in Matthew 10:28 when He told His disciples to not be afraid of things that "kill the body" but rather, be afraid of the things that can kill both the "body and the soul." The idea here being, if you're with me (Christ) you're safe from eternal harm. Our "storms" are just one of those things that can take our human life, but can't take our "soul" if its secure in Jesus.

But then, up pops Peter. Good old impetuous Peter who would later on do and say other impetuous things. But Peter is going to serve as a "show and tell" lesson here to the disciples then present and to everyone since. Allow me to explain what I mean by those words.

I see a little different aspect here than most teachers I've heard speak about this occasion in a lesson. In the earlier event on the sea, Jesus chided them about their being of "little faith." I see another "lesson in faith" about to be taught to them here in this event using Peter to accomplish it. Take the time to read both accounts that I'm using today, Matt. 8:23-27 and Matt. 14:23-33. I think that you'll see some very similar words said by Jesus on both occasions.

But, back to Peter on the second occasion. Notice he says, "Lord, IF it is you, command me to come to you on the water." (Vs. 28) Notice my emphasis on "if." Doesn't that sound a little like a test? Now, we know that Jesus knew what was going to happen, don't we? So He simply says, "Come." Like, "OK, come on."

Now Peter didn't hesitate a bit. He left the boat and started walking on the water towards Jesus. But then, he started paying more attention to the "storm" going on around him than he was paying on Jesus. He became "afraid" and "beginning to sink" he called out "Lord, save me." Not an uncommon request, is it?

Jesus "reached out His hand and caught him" and then chided him on his lack of "faith." He asked Peter, "Why did you doubt?" (Vs 31) Let's see if we can see a reason Peter doubted. I think it's pretty simple myself - Peter did what a lot of us do sometimes. He let the "storm" take his focus off of Christ. Instead of paying attention to Christ, he began paying attention to the things going on around his physical life.

Remember I mentioned that he "began to sink?" Isn't that what a lot of us do? We let worldly things pull our attention away from Christ little by little. We don't necessarily go under immediately, as we get less and less focused on Jesus, we slowly sink. We slowly get farther away from Him. But, just as He did with Peter, he will "stretch forth His hand and catch us." However, like Peter, it's upon us to realize that we're sinking and where our salvation is located.

Ron Covey

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