Thursday, November 28, 2013
The title of this piece is one of the phrases I hear from time to time at
this season of the year. It is true for some holidays are a very stressful
time. One of our church members shared the following thoughts and I wanted
to pass them along as I felt they are particularly appropriate.
"It's important to remember that not everyone is surrounded by large
wonderful families. Some of us have problems during the holidays and
sometimes are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones
who are not with us. And, many people have no one to spend these times with
and are besieged by loneliness. We all need caring thoughts and loving
prayer right now. Give a moment of thought and support to all those who have
family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just
need to know that someone cares. Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune."
I interact with many, many people and there are quite a few who struggle
with the issues listed above. Loneliness, being separated from families and
physical struggles are only a few. We deal with the stress of the general
condition of our world, the shortcomings of our government officials, the
loss of morals and ethics in our country and the promotion of those losses
by our "entertainment" industry.
How do we deal with these problems? I know that not everyone will be able to
handle them in the same way, but for me and my house, the answer is found in
God's Church. For the past 40 years most of our holidays have been spent
away from our immediate families. At times we have lived in states which
were too far removed from family to reconnect physically during the
holidays. For a period of time we lived in Africa working as missionaries,
separated by half a world from our physical families. What has always made
the difference has been our church family. Those other folks, who just like
us, deal daily with physical, financial and spiritual struggles.
I think it is important for us to take a extra special look around us. To
really see our friends, neighbors and fellow church members and take note of
who might need an extra amount of care and encouragement.
One of my favorite passages of scripture is found in Hebrews 3:12-13 where
the writer outlines our responsibility. He encourages us to: "Take heed,
brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in
departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is
called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."
What happens when we drop the ball and fail to encourage others? They
sometimes turn away from God. Galatians 6:2 tells us to: "Bear one another's
burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ". How about trying a little harder
to encourage others, especially at the holiday season, it's the least that
you can do.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
ye are called in one body, and be ye thankful." Col. 3:15
Using the well-known words of The Preacher spoken in Eccl. 3:1 "To everything there is a season" I'll launch our editorial today which will be some thoughts about this season and the coming holiday next Thursday - Thanksgiving. It's my belief that, if we were to relegate just one day out of the year in which to celebrate this holiday, this "season," the fall of the year, would be the most appropriate one in which to observe it.
However, it is also my belief that there should not be "just one day" wherein we are to be thankful. Being "thankful," or "grateful," for the measure of blessings we've received should be a continuing, or daily, effort on our part. In this lesson I'll provide you with passages from God's Word that tells us that very thing. That being always "thankful" and "grateful" is part and parcel of the character of God's People - the "called."
Back to the thought about Thanksgiving Day being appropriate to the fall season, it's only fitting that a day of thanksgiving would come after the harvest. A time when it's natural to think about the bountiful gifts from God with which we've been blessed.
And I want you to know that this idea of setting aside a particular time to be reminded of these blessings is nothing new. At the giving of the Mosaic Law to God's People, the Israelites, they were commanded to observe a "sacrifice of thanksgiving." (Lev. 22:29) This passage will tie into a thought to be mentioned later in this editorial.
Later on, when the Israelites returned from captivity in Babylon and had completed the reconstruction of the wall at Jerusalem, Nehemiah proclaimed a day of "gladness" and "thanksgiving" with a great celebration surrounding it. (Neh. 12:27)
The Psalms are replete throughout with the idea of being "grateful and thankful" to God for everything we have. I'll cite to you one of them as an example. "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord He is God; it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise; be thankful unto Him and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting and His truth endureth for all generations." (Psalm 100)
"Giving thanks" (thanksgiving) and being "thankful" is a much used phrase in the Bible and if you haven't ever taken the time to look up the translated meaning of it, allow me to tell you what you will find should you do so. "Thanksgiving" in both the Greek and Hebrew languages means "having gratitude" or "being grateful" When Paul told us in Col 3:15 ".... and be ye thankful" it would be just as correct if he had said "...be ye grateful."
As we mentioned earlier, gratefulness to God is a major plank in the character structure of a Christian. And, it stands to reason that, if we show "gratitude" and "thankfulness" to God, we will do likewise with our fellow man. The well-known Greek author, Aesop, once penned these words: "Gratitude is the sign of noble souls." It's my humble opinion that it is the total character of a Christian that makes our soul "noble."
By the same token, someone who is "ungrateful" or "unthankful" would not possess a soul that is righteous with God. Now, don't take my word for it, notice what Paul tells us in 2Tim. 3:1-3. Here he gives us the flip-side, so to speak, to a soul that is "thankful." Just look at the souls that the "unthankful" are synonymous with: "the covetous, the boasters, the proud, the blasphemers, the disobedient to parents, the unholy, those without natural affection, the trucebreakers, the false accusers, the incontinent, the fierce and the despisers of those that are good."
Think about it for a moment - what's being talked about in those verses? In the comparison of "thankful and grateful" souls with those souls that Paul lays alongside - the "unthankful" or the "ungrateful?" What's being talked about and described are ATTITUDES. And, "unthankful" is an attitude not appreciated by God.
And, I would venture to say that it is an attitude not appreciated by us either. I know that one of my pet bug-a-boos is a display of ingratitude on the part of my fellow human beings. A person who isn't "grateful or thankful" is both a selfish and conceited person and I find them hard to be around. When you consider how "ungrateful and unthankful" people affect us, is it hard to realize how that attitude appears to God? To the One to whom we "live and move, and have our being..." (Acts 17:28)
When I mentioned the part about the "unthankful" being selfish and conceited, and to add more scriptural evidence to what Paul said in 2Timothy, let's take a quick look at something he said in Romans the 1st chapter. Notice, that in speaking about the "ungodly" and the "unrighteous" (vs 18), in verse 21 he says that "they knew God" but they did not "glorify Him as God" and "neither were they thankful, but became vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart was darkened (full of darkness)." We see there that the "unthankful" are comparable to being "ungodly and unrighteous."
I think that I've provided sufficient scriptural proof, even though there is more that I could present, to show that the character of "ingratitude and unthankfulness" is 180 degrees opposite of the character of a Christian. Opposed to the character of a "noble soul" or one approved of by God.
If you remember that far back, I mentioned earlier that we would return to a thought relating to the passage in Lev. 22:29. That was where the Israelites were commanded to offer "Thanksgiving Sacrifices." I'd like to take you on into verse 30 and have you note some words written there. I can see a correlation to the sacrifice of that family of God's People to the events of God's People next Thursday: "It shall be eaten on the same day: you shall leave none of it until morning. I am the Lord."
I am overjoyed to have found the Lord's command regarding the "sacrifice of Thanksgiving" as to it's consumption. I intend to sacrifice a "turkey of Thanksgiving" and I feel that I now have scriptural authority for doing my best to eat it all on the same day.
I'll close this lesson by citing to you a prayer once offered by an old Scottish preacher:
"I thank Thee, O Lord God, that though with liberal hand Thou has at all times showered thy blessing upon our human kind, yet in Jesus Christ Thou hast done greater things for us than Thou ever didst before: Making home sweeter and friends dearer; Turning sorrow into gladness and pain into the soul's victory; Robbing death of its sting; Robbing sin of its power; Making peace more peaceful and joy more joyful and faith and hope more secure In Jesus name, Amen."
Thursday, November 21, 2013
be celebrating our national holiday of Thanksgiving. People will be
gathering all over the country reminding each other of all the things for
which they are thankful in their lives.
The problem with that is; that not everyone is in a thankful mood. There are
many, many people who have had to deal with tragedy and loss. They are
dealing with the loss of family members, the loss of friends, the loss of
jobs, the loss of homes, cars, and things that cannot be replaced. Some of
us despair over the condition of our county and the loss of moral values in
our government and our society in general.
Sometimes it is difficult to "Be Grateful," in general; much less live
gratefully all of the time. How do we cope? How do we not read the words of
Paul in Philippians 4:4, where he says: "Rejoice in the Lord always: and
again I say, Rejoice," and not, at times, feel resentment?
Are we wrong to feel discouraged? Are we wrong not to go around smiling and
laughing all the time? Honestly; I don't think we are wrong for having
emotions and feelings which are not always in line with rejoicing. We often
see Jesus as he is weighed down with the unbelief of the Jewish nation
sorrowing and weeping. If you are human, then sometimes you are going to
I believe that, even though he wrote the words above, the apostle Paul
sometimes had trouble rejoicing "Always". How many times did he chastise
those who hurt the cause of Christ? How often did he warn that judgment is
coming to those who fail to hold onto their faith and serve Satan? Really,
do you think he rejoiced in doing that? I don't!
I believe that the point Paul was making is that we must never lose sight of
the promise of our hope in the future. Yes, sometimes it's difficult to
rejoice or to be thankful, but that is only until we remind ourselves that
this world is only temporary and that all loses on earth don't really matter
eternally. Our live is more than just the daily grind, pain and loss we
suffer here; it is the hope for the future in which we rejoice! When I
remember that, I honestly can rejoice always (or in all ways), because I
remember the eternal promise of God.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
|An Astonishing Choice|
by Tom Wacaster
"Now at the feast the governor was wont to release unto the multitude one prisoner, whom they would. And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. When therefore they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?" (Matt. 27:15-17). I don't know where the "custom" originated that allowed the Jews to select some prisoner for release, but likely it had to do with Rome's attempt to appease the Jews by granting liberty to some political prisoner. After all, Israel was almost at constant odds with Rome politically.
Little did Pilate imagine that this Jewish mob would, when given the choice, prefer a cold-blooded killer over a man Who went about doing good, and against Whom no charge of wrong could be levied. Oh yes, Barabbas was a "notable" prisoner; no doubt a seditionist, a zealot who hated Rome and Rome's occupation of the Promised Land. Somewhere in the recesses of the not-too-distant past this man had taken someone's life. Arrested, tried, and convicted he was confined to a prison in Jerusalem to await his execution by crucifixion. Here was a murderer, a seditionist, deserving of the death that awaited him along with the two thieves who would eventually be crucified with Christ. Little did Barabbas imagine that in the early hours of the very day of his scheduled execution he would be granted not only a stay of execution, but a full release from prison. In an attempt to appease the angry mob, Pilate offered the Jews a choice. Knowing the Jews had delivered up Jesus out of je alousy, he asked, "Who shall I release to you? Jesus, or Barabbas." It is rather ironic that the name "Barabbas" means "son of father" ("Bar" meaning "son of," and "abba" meaning "father"). That dark night in Jerusalem, Israel was given the choice between two men as to whom they would accept, and whom they would reject. Jesus was the Son of the Father of all men; Barabbas the son of some unnamed man. Was Barabbas' earthly father still alive? Did he live in Jerusalem? Was he aware of the fate of his son, and the turn of events that would set this man free? No information is provided. But this we know about the "father" of each of these men. The father of one, if alive, or even aware of his son's life, must have hung his head in shame. The Father of the Other was "well pleased" with the love and obedience demonstrated by His Son's short thirty-three year earthly tenor.
To appease the crown, Pilate gave the mob a choice: Jesus or Barabbas! The governor must have been shocked to hear that the people preferred this vile, wicked murderer to Jesus. But that is the choice they made. And their choice echoes through the halls of history revealing the extreme to which men will go when they are determined to rid their lives of Jesus. The atheist selects Barabbas over Jesus when he rejects the abundant evidence of the existence of God and deity of Jesus. He plays the fool (Psa. 14:1) and willfully closes his eyes to the abundant "proofs" that declare the glory of God and shows His wonderful handiwork (Psa. 19:1). In exchange he offers nothing to the world but a bleak outlook on life and an eternity filled with hopeless non existence.
The profligate likewise selects Barabbas over Jesus when he follows in the footsteps of that notorious criminal who had little respect for life and no respect for authority. Desiring to live a life of debauchery, the profligate rejects every attempt to reign in a life that is out of control, and chooses instead to continue his journey into the dark night of indulgence and self pleasure.
The unethical abortionist, unloving mother, and uncaring society select Barabbas over Jesus every time a baby is torn from his mother's womb and the masses of a society remain silent without so much as a whimper or wailing cry! Right and wrong mean nothing, and the value of human life even less to those who chose Barabbas over Jesus so that they might escape the responsibility that comes with bringing a child into this world.
The list goes on! The homosexual selects Barabbas over Jesus for an unholy, perverted life style. The religious leaders and foolish followers who perpetrate, perpetuate, or participate in religious error have selected Barabbas over Jesus. The child of God that turns back to the filth of the world has made a bad choice. Every lukewarm, indifferent, undedicated, uncommitted child of God who allow pleasure to come between them and their God, have selected Barabbas over Jesus. Cowardly elders who choose to appease rebellious members rather than have the whole counsel of God preached, have likewise selected Barabbas over Jesus.
Yes, the choice those Jews made on that fateful day has been repeated by untold billions. When men choose a person, philosophy or policy over Christ, have they not called for the release of Barabbas over the Christ? "Not this man, but Barabbas!" Whether in person, principle, or way of life, when men choose to "crucify" Christ afresh they are asking for Barabbas over Christ. Every time someone rejects the authority of Christ for tradition, family religion, or a moral life style contrary to the teaching of the New Testament, they have asked for Barabbas over Jesus. When we turn away from Christ and give in to anger, selfishness, envy, jealousy, hatred, evil speaking, we have chosen Barabbas instead of Jesus.
Each of us will eventually find ourselves in the shoes of Pilate. Not to try Jesus, or to hear the arguments of the rebellious mob who rejected and crucified our Lord. Like Pilate, each one of us will, at least one time, face the decision of whether to choose Jesus or Barabbas. Dear friend, what choice will you make? Barabbas or Jesus?
Since we are a long distance from our children and grandchildren, she fills
in that place lots of times. Through the years we have learned to interpret
many of her "silent communications". This morning however we had a problem
with that "communication". She (the dog, not my wife) will often sit and
stare at us and we have a series of questions we ask and then try to judge
her response to the questions. She has us trained well enough that we often
get the answer right quite quickly. This morning we went through that common
procedure and kept getting mixed signals. It seemed she wanted her kibble/
food and yet when we provided it, she didn't eat, she just sat and stared at
us. My wife said, "I don't think she knows what he really wants." Finally my
wife determined that the dog just wasn't feeling well today and picked up
some of her food and held it in her hand and the dog took a few pieces at a
time and ate.
How often are we like that in our lives? We feel discontent, loneliness, or
no sense of purpose. We stumble around mentally, trying to figure out what
is missing or why our lives are unfulfilling. We would go to God and ask
him, but since we can't figure it out ourselves, how can we approach God?
Unlike us who have a family member who is a dog, God never has to wonder
what the problem is or what we need. He knows everything about us, but that
does not mean we should not try and put our needs into words to the Father.
The scripture clearly tells us that talk to God about everything and all
times. God has however provided a way for us to communicate when we are
tongue tied or just don't know how to express our selves.
Paul tells us in Romans 8: 26-28 "And the Holy Spirit helps us in our
weakness. For example, sometimes we don't know what to pray for in the right
way. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be
expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the
Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with
God's own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for
the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for
All of this is to say simply, trust God to give you what you need, even if
you need (at times) to be hand fed.
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