Associate Pastor A. W. Chism believes in preaching the old time Gospel because it will never go out of style and is relevant for the world today. Dr. Chism’s sermons can be heard at “www.covenantofchrist.com”.
February 2, 2019 -Today is Groundhog Day. Of course that is nothing to get overly excited about, because groundhogs are notoriously bad at predicting the arrival of spring. But if you are like many people, even if you enjoy the winter season, the truth is that you can only have so much fun and have probably cast a thought or two towards the coming of warmer weather and bluer skies. Groundhog day arouses within us the hope of brighter days ahead.
Groundhog day revolves around the premise that if a groundhog sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter, but if the sun isn’t shining then spring is close at hand. It seems a little odd that for those seeking an end to the short, dark, dreary days of winter, the presence of light is a bad thing. I think whoever concocted this little bit a folk wisdom was confused, especially since its origin seems to stem from the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas, when clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for the year as the Church celebrated the presentation of the baby Jesus at the temple. How this evolved into animals forecasting the seasons isn’t exactly clear to me…but German immigrants to America expanded on the idea, and replaced the traditional hedgehog used to predict the weather in Europe with the more abundant groundhogs found in Pennsylvania.
To a Christian…light should signify a good thing and not be a harbinger of bad times ahead. Consider Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (ESV) Light helps us to see the way so we don’t stumble and fall.
And then, there’s Numbers 6:22-27…. “The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.’” (ESV).
The light of God’s face shining upon us is a blessing…a wonder and a comfort for the soul…much as the light of the sun on our face warms our body. And speaking of the sun, replace the s-u-n with the S-O-N. In His own words…Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior said in John 8:12 “… I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Maybe old Punxsutawney Phil gets confused because he takes his eyes off of the sun and thus sees his own shadow, which scares him and he runs and hides. Shadows shouldn’t frighten because they have no power to cause harm. In life, direction is everything…and we should remember that if we are facing the light…we cannot see the darkness. Think about Hebrews 12:1-2 and decided for yourself where you should be looking.
December25, 2018 -Last evening our celebration of the first Advent of Christ came to an end. We had lit a candle on four Sundays in honor of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
On the first Sunday at Advent, we lit a candle to remind us of the hope we have in Christ because our God keeps His promises to us. Our Lord Jesus coming to earth was a history-changing, life changing event. Had He not come on that night long ago as a babe in the manger… we could not have had the man Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.
Each year, as we prepare our homes for Christmas, we also need to prepare our hearts for remembering the Advent, which means the coming, of the Christ Child. The candle we lit on that first Sunday is symbolic of the years of waiting and hoping…hoping for that wonderful event.
The prophets, inspired by God, kept reminding the people to look forward to the coming Messiah, the Son of God… who was to redeem the people from their sins. Their message gave the people the Hope…the quiet expectation of what was to be fulfilled in God’s own time.
The Hebrew word ”Jesus” means “Salvation” or “Savior”, and we are told in the scriptures to watch and wait for His return. It is us who today have a blessed hope of that second Advent of Christ. We lit that first candle because, like God’s people centuries ago, we also look forward with hope to the coming of the Messiah…the Shepherd of God’s people everywhere and of all time.
On the second Sunday, we lit the candle of peace. Jesus Christ is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). He is the Prince of Peace, and the fruit of His presence is peace. (Isaiah 9:6; Galatians 5:22). Christ comes to bring justice… wholeness… and harmony to every relationship… throughout all creation. He wants to continually grant us peace in every situation. (2 Thessalonians 3:16), and we celebrate the peace we are given in our minds and hearts when we come to God in faith.
The peace Christ gives is like no other peace we can experience…certainly not as the world gives. The peace of this life is fleeting and unsure…but the peace that Christ gives is eternal. It is the most wonderful and precious peace of all, because for those who have been justified by faith in Him, the peace of Christ is a state of divine grace and eternal hope, because the peace Christ offers to us…is peace with God.
The Third Candle spoke of the joy we can all share because the Holy Spirit fills our hearts and minds with the presence the God. Joy and happiness walk in each other’s shadows. Sometimes they seem to be the same…but sometimes, there is a difference.
Consider the agony someone may endure while undergoing a medical procedure. There is little to be happy about while being in pain…and yet…while happiness may be absent, at least for the moment, there can be great joy in knowing a life threatening condition has been resolved.
In a similar way, our daily lives can be filled with struggles and heartaches. In John 16, Jesus spoke of sorrow… but sorrow that would one day be turned into joy, and in John 16:33 He said: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Life can be painful…and happiness can elude us. But Jesus has told us to take heart. He told us not to be afraid. When times are hard…go to the back of the book and see how it all ends. Read Revelation 21:1-7 and be encouraged!
Much as the joy of the cure encourages us during the procedures we must endure to achieve it, we can take great comfort in the promises of God, because they are rock solid and sure. We are here for a purpose…we are ambassadors for Christ…workers in the field of a lost world. Soldiers of the Cross, if you will…and while happiness may appear distant in the heat of battle, we take joy in being on the right side…in being faithful to the cause.
And when our work here is done, the words of our Savior point the way to our future. In speaking of the faithful, Jesus said in Matthew 25:21 He said “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” To enter into the joy of our master…in our case… into the joy of our Lord…for all eternity… this is indeed the most joyous of thoughts…. and is reason for celebration.
Last Sunday we lit the candle of Love. As the 4th candle is lit, we should remember that Jesus came to earth… to “ show and tell” us of God’s love for us. Love has many voices… and speaks in many places… smiling as a friend… sharing someone’s burden… lending a helping hand…completing a task for the infirm or the aged…making a card for someone who is ill…or visiting the sick.
Love is a gift we give of ourselves, a gift that shows that we care for another….and who among us does not cherish receiving such a gift? Love is the mark of a true disciple of Christ.
And then, on Christmas Eve, a single candle remained… the Christ candle. We lit the Christ candle to remember the birth of Jesus Christ, and to remind us that it was the light of the world that was born that night because Jesus Christ, the true light of the world had come. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life!” (John 8:12)
Christ is a light shining in a dark place. As we observed the light of that candle, we celebrated our certain knowledge that God loved us when we were still deep in sin and unloveable… and because of that love…we are saved from that sin through our Savior Jesus Christ. Because of Christ, we rest in the safely of God’s eternal care.
The Christ candle gave its light to everything that surrounded it, and it reminded us of the giving part of Christmas. God has given us many gifts, and when we try to count our blessings… we discover that the list is always long. But the greatest gift of all is the gift of His son Jesus… because In giving us His son, He gave us Himself.
This Christmas, please remember to thank God our Father for His greatest gift of all to us…the gift of His Son Jesus. Jesus the Christ…our friend…our redeemer…our Savior.
Let us remember why we celebrate at all. Let us remember Israel’s hope for that first Advent….the coming of God’s Messiah to save, to forgive, and to restore. Let us remember our own hope for the second Advent… the second coming of Jesus Christ. Let us remember our need for a Savior to save us from our sins…and let us remember to make room for Jesus in our lives.
Consider praying that our Heavenly Father will always and forever, guide our feet onto the path of peace (Luke 1:79), and that we would always feel His presence and embrace the comfort He provides for our souls with every beat of our hearts.
As we think back on the light of the candles of Advent, try to remember that even a single candle has great power. In the darkness of night, the smallest of candles brings comfort and joy to those who behold it. Embrace the Christmas season, as it holds a special wonder for us… an unmistakable joy that cannot be denied…the joy in giving… joy in kindness and love…. joy in bringing happiness to others….and most of all…joy in the hope….the assurance of our salvation.
May our lives radiate the light of Christ into a darkened world…and may people see in our faces the joy that is in our hearts…. joy we have because we know Jesus. Let us share the wealth…spreading hope, peace, joy, and love in the world by the way we live… the way we give….and in the things we do and say.
In the name of our Blessed Savior Jesus Christ, Merry Christmas!
November 22, 2018 – Happy Thanksgiving! No doubt many of us will be using that phrase today or have it said to us as families and friends gather for a time of eating, watching football, sleeping, and in many cases, plotting out the strategies for shopping on Black Friday. When and if you come face-to-face with the phrase today, I hope they are words that bring gladness to your heart.
Sadly enough, all too often this may be the only day of the year that some ever see their relations as the busy schedule of life keeps them apart. Sadly enough, for some this day of “family togetherness” is one day too many… as even this brief contact with other family members frequently offers little more than the prospect of a long, dull, irritating day that cannot pass quickly enough. That’s sad…and, sadder still…for some this day is a time of loneliness and despair, either over what once was and is now not, or what never was but longed for.
Whether you look forward to the day with great anticipation or apprehension, let me offer you an insight gleaned from over 22 years of schooling and 60 plus years of experience…being thankful is a matter of attitude. You may be thinking that this gem of wisdom is in itself pretty sad based on all of the preparation that went into it, but it is…nevertheless… the truth.
If you find nothing in the present which instills a feeling of gratitude in you, try thinking “outside the box”. We can be thankful for what we have, or what we don’t have. Ponder that thought. Is there something that you are just as happy isn’t part of your experience…hunger…illness…abject poverty…or loneliness perhaps? Is there something in your past that causes you to smile when you reflect on the memory? Is there something you can look forward to in hopeful anticipation? If any of these apply…Happy Thanksgiving!
Here’s another thought…instead of receiving a blessing for which to be thankful for, perhaps you could dwell on the prospect of being a blessing that makes someone else thankful. In 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20, Paul writes of his affection for the Church there, and his earnest desire to see them again. The reason he looked forward to being with them once more was that they were his hope, joy, and the crown of rejoicing in which he would glory in the presence of the Lord when He comes. Are you the cause for some else’s rejoicing? Oh, to be such a person…to be such an influence! Conversely, do you rejoice because of those you have helped along the path of salvation? Saved people are the reward of evangelism. Seeing people saved is a joy that lasts for eternity…far longer than the joy of a good meal! My hope is that during this holiday season and always, we all strive to be people others look forward to being with because of the love and light of Christ that shines from our lives!
May this be a day of blessing and thankfulness for us all!
November 2, 2018 -For most of us, this Sunday we will observe the biannual “Changing of the Clocks”. Since it is Autumn, the schedule of our lives will slip a little. Regarding the hour of the day, we “fall back” to where we were eight months ago. You might hear someone say that we gain an hour, that we get another hour to sleep, or do whatever else it is we want to do. But the truth of the matter is that most of us will do little more with this alleged “bonus hour” than to experience it. Well, that’s not to be unexpected, since the number of hours in the day remains exactly the same, and we have exactly the same number chores and activities to fit into those hours.
Whether that bonus hour actually exists is a matter of perception, and to be sure, perception is a key helping us to make sense of life. That being said, if your perception is that you get a bonus of an additional hour this weekend…enjoy!
It’s great when perception and reality go hand-in-hand. Some of us may think of this weekend as giving us a gift…but others may embrace a different perception, one brought on by the changing of the seasons from summer to fall, realizing that winter will soon be upon us. Their perception as they observe the current changing of the seasons is that time is running out. And to help foster this particular perception, when checking the weather forecast on the Internet, based on where I live and the day I’m writing this, I see that tomorrow will be 2 minutes 52 seconds shorter than today. Now, I understand that the writer was not referring to the actual length of the day, but to the hours of sunlight we can expect to experience. Tomorrow there will be less light than today…and on Sunday when we change our clocks, even less.
The reality of the situation is clear. We may or may not embrace the concept of having an “extra hour” which, at best is a loaner since we give it back down the road, but irregardless of our perception of that, our reality today that the opportunity to enjoy the sunshine is growing less and less each day. And, let me extend this reality a little to propose that the opportunity we have to be the sunshine…the light…in someone else’s life is less today than it was yesterday, because our time here on this earth is less.
Our opportunity to be light is decreasing, and if you do not know Jesus Christ as your Savior, your opportunity to see and embrace the light of Christ is passing away with every tick of the clock. The grains of sand representing the moments of our life never stop their relentless flow in the hourglass until they all pass through.
In Psalm 39:4-5 the Bible says “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” (ESV). And again, in Psalm 90:12, the psalmist calls out for God to “teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (ESV). There is indeed wisdom in understanding that our days are numbered, and the opportunities to use them wisely expire as each day passes. Is there work you want to accomplish? Are you certain of your eternal destiny? For us here in North America, the seasons reflect God’s handiwork, and as the shadows grow longer and longer, and the darkness extends it’s embrace over the land earlier every day, the words of our Savior Christ Jesus should guide us: “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” John 9:4 (ESV)
July 1, 2018 -Over the years, faith has been an important element in the lives of many. In May 1788, George Washington, the 1st U.S. President of the United States issued the following order, which summarizes his general view on faith: “While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.” (The Writings of Washington, pp. 342-343)
In his first inaugural address on March 4, 1861, the 16th President of the United StatesAbraham Lincoln said: “Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him, who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.
And, on November 16, 1982, in remarks made at the Annual Convention
of the United States League of Savings Associations in New Orleans LA, President Ronald Reagan said:
“Above all, let us remember the mountain of strength that offers the greatest hope and inspiration for all. I believe with all my heart that standing up for America means standing up for the God who has so blessed our land. We need God’s help to guide our nation through stormy seas. But we can’t expect Him to protect America in a crisis if we just leave Him over on the shelf in our day-to-day living.
There’s a lovely old hymn which says: When morning lights the eastern skies, O Lord Thy mercy show, on Thee alone our hope relies, let us Thy kindness know. Trusting in Him, believing in each other, working together, we will rebuild America — the land of our dreams and mankind’s last great hope.”
President Reagan also made the following comment in remarks made at an Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast held in in Dallas, Texas, 23 August 1984: “Without God, there is no virtue, because there’s no prompting of the conscience. Without God, we’re mired in the material, that flat world that tells us only what the senses perceive. Without God, there is a coarsening of the society. And without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure. If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”
You know…if there’s a word that you could use to describe our society today, I believe that calling it “coarse” is right on the money.
Whatever Happened to GOD and Country? And by GOD…I’m referring to the GOD of our founding fathers…and by country I’m referring to the United States of America…a place where children recited the pledge of allegiance…a place where prayer was allowed in school…a place where we celebrated our own independence….not the independence of some foreign land.
The United States of America, a place where we were not only proud to display our nation’s banner, but were not prohibited from doing so by homeowner’s associations or some community’s misguided concept of inclusion and political correctness. America…a place where being an American and being a Christian was something to be proud of….not something to hide because it might be offensive to someone.
GOD and Country. I heard about it when I was very young when it stood for something. It used to be ideals we were to strive to embrace…GOD and country said it all. They were to come before anything else…but oh, how the mighty have fallen!
So many in this country have come to either ignore the Christian faith…ridicule the Christian faith…and some are even outright hostile to the Christian faith. And while they sure don’t mind taking their place at Uncle Sam’s feed trough, or don’t shy away from enjoying the benefits of living in such a wonderful, GOD blessed nation as this, I wonder if they ever stop to realize that the principles of Christianity were so deeply entrenched in the establishment of America… that we must believe that without Christianity, there very well would never have been a country such as the United States of America.
And… I wonder if they ever stop to consider that as our late President Ronald Reagan said: “If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”
In my opinion, that’s the crystal clear lesson to be learned from Deuteronomy 8:19… “And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.” (ESV) I wonder…do we today as a nation who once relished the concept of being one nation Under GOD… do we have a reason to be concerned about the warning found in Deuteronomy?
When we as a nation celebrate our independence in a political sense, we often forget is that when our founding fathers declared their independence from England, they…at the same time…. made a resounding “Declaration of Dependence” upon Almighty God. When we as a nation celebrate our independence, we need to be careful…we need to watch out…that we don’t forget about GOD.
And what goes for a nation goes for the individual as well. We can’t rely on the righteous acts of others to keep us safe. We can’t depend upon the faith of our neighbors to keep Heaven’s blessings pouring out on our land. Each of us are….individually….responsible to GOD…and, each and every one of us… as individuals…as we celebrate the birth of our nation….each and every one of us must also re-affirm that this nation was truly built on the foundation of faith in Christ….and that it remains “One Nation…Under GOD…”yesterday, today, and forever.
Happy Birthday America!
June 16, 2018 -Well, Father’s Day is upon us once again! This day can certainly mean different things to different people. For some, it’s a time to pause and pay respect to the man who either has, or who is, raising you. And time here, is irrelevant! We are never too old to learn from our dads!
For some, this day is a day to pause and remember the Dad who, though no longer with us, gave us such a great start in life. A time to pay honor to the one who sacrificed for us and provided so many valuable lessons that made us the persons we are today. And then for some, today is a bitter reminder of a Father who was never a Dad. It’s not a time to reminisce about the good times because there were none…at least none that overshadow the bad.
Maybe you can relate to a Father who left you with fond as well as unpleasant memories. I would suspect this may be the case for many of us. After all, our earthly fathers are, or were, only human. And, I believe that most of us try to do the best we can with the resources we have.
Fatherhood, as well as motherhood, is a role we learn through on the job training. When my first child was born, I remember when we left the hospital that the nurse handed me my little daughter but no instruction manual to use as a guide. Oh sure, there may have been information about feeding, bathing, caring for… but nothing about parenting that I could gain through osmosis. Well, nothing I really trusted anyway. Lots of people write books but not everyone knows what they are writing about. What I had to draw from about being a father was what I had learned through my own experience with fathers, my own and those of my friends.
Well, whatever your experience with your own father has been, as a rule, we don’t get to pick who our fathers are. But I believe if we could pick our own fathers, we’d pick the very best, or at least what we perceived as being the very best. I wonder what this ideal person would be like? Was your father an ideal father…or if you are a father, do you hope that your children think this of you?
Good and sound advise for any father who aspires to be such a man is found in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (ESV)
I think many fathers love their children the minute they are born, and more than likely, even before they are born. I think the love starts to grow as soon as a father finds out that he’s going to be a father. The sweet thing here is: the child hasn’t done anything to earn your love, but you love them anyway. You love them first! Why? Because they’re your children. And most of the time, a father continues to love them, no matter what.
Now, at times the child may disappoint. At times the child may cause anger or heartache. But no matter what the future holds, a father will continue to love his child.
A father loves his children, and our heavenly Father is no exception. On this day when we set aside time to honor the men we call our fathers on earth…our Dads… may we always keep in mind our eternal Father in heaven. May we honor Him as well for His love, His provision, and His work to prepare us for life in heaven with Him.
Happy Father’s Day!
December 16, 2017 -In the literary work “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, near the end of the story (after his visits by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future) we read where Scrooge was moved by the ringing of church bells. He said the sound was glorious! Not knowing what day it was, he ran to his window and called out to a boy on the street below “What’s today?” The boy replied “Why, Christmas Day.” Scrooge was elated. “It’s Christmas Day! I haven’t missed it.” he said.
Here’s just a little reminder…Christmas Day is almost here…please don’t miss it!” That might seem a little surprising to read because we talk of a whole season of Christmas, not just a single day. But sometimes we can get desensitized to what is going on. We become overly familiar with the trappings and before we know it, it’s gone… leaving us to wonder what happened. But there’s a way to make sure that doesn’t happen to you, because Christmas should be more than a day or even a season.
In Hebrews 12:2a we are told to keep focused…we are to keep our eyes on the Savior: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith”. Celebrations and get-togethers are great, but please try not to be so preoccupied with events that you lose sight of the real “reason for the season”.
“A Christmas Carol” is one of my favorite stories because it speaks of redemption on a grand scale. It illustrates that people usually don’t become cynical and bitter overnight, but are helped along by disappointments and rejection. Scrooge became distracted about what is really important in life and it cost him, but even he was not beyond hope.
As a Christian, as we go through life, perhaps we can help someone else discover or rediscover the meaning of Christmas. Any day can be Christmas Day for someone when, for the first time, they understand that the Christ child is not just a savior, but that He is in fact… their Savior. That is the day that Jesus becomes real to them …and they receive the best Christmas present ever, no matter what the calendar says.
November 21, 2017 -Thanksgiving is almost here. It’s a day when we should be reminded to give thanks…to be grateful for the blessings we enjoy. But what does it mean to be grateful, or what does it take to make us grateful? Many of us may have a problem in answering this because of what we receive on a daily basis. There’s trouble ahead when blessings are so plentiful that we start taking them for granted.
We may forget that blessings are gifts, but gifts that come to us frequently lose some of the impact of actually being a gift, and we eventually come to expect them and we get out of sorts when they don’t happen. It isn’t a question of gratitude because being thankful never enters into the picture. Gifts and blessings become entitlements; after all, they are only what we have coming to us anyway…our rightful fair share…and so very, very often…. we are completely unwilling to give thanks to anyone for anything.
This Thursday most of us will celebrate another Thanksgiving. I think that Thanksgiving is one American holiday that Jesus might thoroughly enjoy. It’s a celebration of thanks with family and friends, all gathered around a table full of great food. What’s not to like? If this does indeed describe what you expect to experience this holiday…boy are you ever blessed. Just look around and take note of those who will be without family, friends, a table, or even a decent meal on Thursday.
I see Jesus as a great person to be around. I see a Savior who is more into celebration than mourning. While with those who know Him…those who love Him… I see joy in His holy face….not a somber look of sadness. In fact…Jesus was criticized for the feasting He and his disciples engaged in. (Mark 2, Luke 5, Matthew 9). If you are fortunate enough to have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a sound roof overhead, and a place to sleep…then you are richer than 75% of this world. I’m told that if you have money in the bank and in your wallet or purse and a little spare change in a dish someplace…you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy. What’s more, I’ve read that if you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture or death…you are more blessed than three billion people in the world.
This thanksgiving…as the smells of the meal fill the house or the restaurant if you go out, as you contemplate the turkey and dressing and sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce… as you feel your belly start to grumble and roll…before sitting down at that table…ask yourself one question – what are you really hungry for? We all know what it’s like to be hungry and thirsty to a degree, regretfully some more than others…but have we ever experienced that spiritual thirst and hunger that leads us to the foot of the Cross.? Have we ever known of the need for the sustenance that only Jesus can provide for us?
This Thanksgiving we must ask ourselves a question: are we more concerned about what we can get out of Jesus rather than being with Jesus, and do we really appreciate what we are provided…or is it always just a little less than we hoped for? Are we afraid it won’t be enough, or are we disappointed that we don’t see the exact dish we wanted at the buffet table of life?
Our best example of expressing gratitude and thanksgiving is Jesus Christ. He gave thanks for nourishment, for fellowship with the Father, for answered prayer, and even for the cross at Calvary (check out Matthew 26:26-28 and 1 Corinthians 11:24-28). This being the case, should we do any less? If we claim Him as our example, then we too must be a people of gratitude. We can do this by expressing thanks for GOD’s wisdom, for our food, for answered prayer, and most of all, for Christ’s sacrificial and substitutionary death on the cross.
Many of us truly live in a veritable cornucopia of blessings and express a little gratitude from time to time. But friend…all of the thanks in the world for what you have won’t save you. it isn’t enough to be thankful that Christ sacrificed Himself for you, because you must also know Him as your Lord and Savior. If you’ve never done this, make this thanksgiving season truly a season to rejoice and give thanks. God’s altar is open and the time is now….but the decision is yours.
September 8, 2017 -When an activity is trying to get your attention or generate interest, you sometimes hear the phrase “For A Limited Time Only!” I suppose the assumption is that when you know the opportunity to acquire a product or engage in an activity won’t be around for very long, that you will drop what you are doing and rush right out and take part while you can. I must be different, because although there are exceptions, when I hear or see that something won’t be around for very long, the first thought that often goes through my mind is “Why Bother?” If this was the usual response, I’m sure such advertising campaigns would end in disaster and wouldn’t be repeated very often.
“For A Limited Time Only” … that’s the phrase that comes to mind from the recent news and images concerning the massive fires and hurricanes that are impacting our nation. Wholesale destruction and devastation in so short a span of time illustrate how fragile material things are and how quickly they can be done away with. How tragic for the people in harm’s way. I don’t think it is possible for those who are not affected to fully appreciate the misery being experienced and in store for those impacted. Not to take the tragedy lightly, and surely our prayers go out for their safety, but how tragic also to have a life based on such things…to have them as the foundation of our existence.
“For A Limited Time Only” … it’s a phrase that I fear can also be applied to the spiritual life of so many people. The “hallelujahs” roll only so long as the spiritual skies are clear and sunny. The foundations are suspect, and when the storms of life come they crumble and are swept away by the tidal surges of circumstance. When refined by the fires of testing, the ashes are left to fly away in the winds. It’s all gone.
In 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, the Bible warns us to be careful of the foundation on which we build. The only foundation that is safe and secure is Christ. To build a life on anything else is asking for disaster, and it is a disaster that is sure to come. It’s not a question of “if” but of “when”. And, what’s true for individuals is also true of ministry. Each and every Christian has a ministry to perform for the Savior… none of us are here to sit on the sidelines in the spiritual battle that surrounds us. Please make certain that the work you do in the name of Christ is actually for the Lord, that it is inspired and directed by the Holy Spirit, and has as it’s goal the glory of God’s kingdom … and not your own. Please strive to make sure that your work as eternal value, and is not just hanging around “for a limited time only”.
August 4, 2017 -Every Christian has a variety of jobs to do, and one of them is given to us in Galatians 6:1-10. We all carry a burden to work for Christ, and working for Christ involves helping others with the burdens they bear. A common burden all believers are subject to is the burden of falling out of fellowship with God and others by committing some kind of transgression. Transgressions can lead to embarrassment and shame. Offenders may be very sensitive to their failings and shy away from the fellowship of others. They may feel that they would be unwelcome because they have damaged the name of Christ and the church’s witness in the world. Because of these feeling, unless they are approached in the right spirit, they could become lost to doing any further work for Christ.
It is common for fellow believers to chastise and reject those who stumble, when the loving Christian thing to do is to try to help the one who has transgressed to be restored in a gentle and caring manner. Some may believe they are so spiritual that they are incapable of committing transgressions. Some may think they have reached a level of spirituality that rules out sinning, but they are wrong in every case. The Bible makes it clear that all believers are subject to temptation and falling (Galatians 6:3; 1 Corinthians 10:13).
In Galatians 6, the Bible does not identify a specific kind of transgression or whether it be large or small, but speaks to all failings. The fact of the matter is that any Christian can be overtaken by sin, and the question to be answered is how restoration can be done. When dealing with someone who has transgressed, instead of shaming, withdrawing, gossiping and criticizing, the church must adopt a gentle, loving, and helpful spirit and attitude.
The church must realize that the ministry of restoration is the ministry of God, and one to which He has called us. The church can accomplish this by letting the spiritual believers, meaning those who walk in the Spirit, handle the matter by approaching the offender in a spirit of meekness, while being on guard that they themselves not fall into temptation (Galatians 6:1). Too often what one Christian displays to a believer guilty of some transgression is a spirit of hardness, harshness, and rejection. They criticize and spread rumors, but this approach does not concern itself with restoring a fallen brother or sister, and neither is it likely to do so. This is not the spirit that the scriptures tell us need to be shown. We are to be meek, meaning to be gentle, warm, loving, and caring (Ephesians 4:1-2). Since we are all prone to succumbing to temptation, we need to approach others in the manner we would want to be approached. In addition, the matters need to be discussed with the offender, not with others.
Our God is a God of restoration. This is evidenced by the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 and by the very fact that each and every believer has been restored from a fallen state by the grace of God through the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ. The church is to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). The law of Christ is the law of ministry and love (Matthew 20:28). Christ bore the sins of man for man, something which we of course cannot do, but we can bear each other’s burdens. We all suffer under the burden of sin, and can encourage one another with compassion when transgressions occur (Romans 12:15). We can forgive others just as we ask God to forgive us.
Christians must remember that all believers are subject to falling, and that none are so spiritually superior to others that they do not have any transgressions themselves (Galatians 6:1). Believers must not judge others who have fallen to be too tarnished or unspiritual to try to help them. None of us are perfect, and it is only in the type and magnitude of sin that separates us, not the fact of sin itself.
Galatians 6:3 points out that we may think we are something when in fact we are nothing. The good news is that Christ came to save us nothings, He came to save sinners. All men are sinners whether they will admit it or not. All believers are both saved and kept not by their own righteousness, but by the righteousness of Christ, and the only acceptable approach to God is through the righteousness of Jesus Christ. No person is better than any other person in righteousness (Matthew 23:12; Isaiah 64:6; Proverbs 20:6). We must remember that all people are on the same level of ground when standing at the foot of the Cross of Christ. God loves all of His children, and all of His children are worthy of our concern for their spiritual well being.
When we fully realize our own nothingness without Christ (1 Corinthians 3:5-6; Philippians 4:13), it is then that we are willing and prepared to reach out and share the burden others feel from sin. It is then when we are willing and able to come alongside and help shoulder their burden of being out of fellowship with God and His church. Are you willing to work for Christ? Are you willing to lend a hand to lighten a burden other than your own? You won’t have to look very far or very hard to get a chance because opportunities abound!
July 2, 2017 -Happy 4th of July! You know, it seems like just yesterday we were celebrating Easter. The departure of winter and the arrival of warmer weather brought a sigh of relief to many. And then all of a sudden, as the weather turned from warm to hot, some began asking “Whatever happened to spring?” And here we are into July already. Not only that, the second of the big three summertime holidays is upon us, with only one more to go. Before you know it, we’ll be asking ourselves and each other… “Whatever happened to summer?”
Yes, once again for another year we celebrate America being America. It’s a time of flag-waiving, patriotism, and cookouts. It’s a time of reflections on our nation’s beginnings. And for the moment at least, all of these activities are still legal in this land of freedom. But oh, how quickly those sentiments fade! For many, they don’t last much past the fading of the fireworks…the last flicker of the “rockets red glare”…. if they indeed ever had them at all. And it leaves me asking a question: “Whatever happened to GOD and Country?” Whenever someone starts out a sentence with “Whatever happened to”, usually they are reminiscing about the past, and the 4th of July our Independence Day, is tailer-made for reflection, so allow me to take a little stroll down memory lane.
Although there are plenty of folks nowadays who will try to do so, no one can honestly deny that many of our nation’s founding fathers were men of deep religious convictions that were based on the Bible and their faith in Jesus Christ. They were without doubt Christians. I’ve read that of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, nearly half (24) held seminary or school degrees which contained the title “Doctor of Divinity”. And while certainly not all were ministers, it’s an odd practice for a non-religious society to saddle their best educated members with such a title. I’ve read that four of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were in fact current or former full-time preachers, and many more were the sons of clergymen. And their Christian beliefs and values have been recorded for us, so that in our time….we can know and understand the principles on which this great nation was founded.
This Tuesday, the United States will celebrate the anniversary of a crucial moment in the history of our nation… the signing of the Declaration of Independence. But as we stuff down hamburgers and hotdogs, as we dabble with making a small vat of homemade ice cream with salt and ice and what will seem like an eternity of cranking, as we anticipate the fireworks and good times with family and friends, I wonder how many of us will pause to reflect on what a monumental life-changing… and downright dangerous decision it was for each man who dared to sign that document Americans have traditionally cherished so much. In fact, John Adams reportedly said as he signed it, “Whether we live or die, sink or swim, succeed or fail, I stand behind this Declaration of Independence. And if God wills it, I am ready to die in order that this country might experience freedom.”
In Deuteronomy 8:7-14 Moses tells the people, “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land. . . where you shall have plenty to eat. . . When you have eaten & are satisfied… you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you.” Well…that was the good news for the people, and I’m sure it gladdened their hearts and put a spring in their step. But along with the optimistic assessment of the future, there came a warning. Now listen….Moses said…. You’d better watch your step….. Make sure that you never forget the LORD or disobey his laws. Don’t fill your belly….build fine houses to live in…. increase in goods….and then get eat up with pride….and forget that it was the LORD your God who brought you up out of Egypt and made it all happen… Don’t forget that it was God who fed you and kept you safe in the wilderness. When you become successful, don’t say, “We’re rich….and what’s more we did it all ourselves. No…don’t you do it! Remember that it is GOD who gives you the strength to make a living. I’m warning you—if you forget the LORD your God and worship other gods, the LORD will destroy you… just as he destroyed the nations you fought.
You know, it appears to me that this great land of ours has done the very thing the Israelites were warned against. We relied on GOD as we fought for our independence, we leaned on GOD’s providence as we grew, but now…we are fat and comfortable and just eat up with the sense of our own ability to provide for ourselves. and we…as a nation…have no time for GOD… not in our homes…. not in our schools…. not in our society…. in fact….it also appears to me that GOD….and I mean the true GOD…the Holy One of Israel….the GOD of Abraham…Isaac…and Jacob….the LORD God has a hard time finding a place in our public worship as well. I wonder….do we today as a nation who once relished the concept of being one nation Under GOD…. do we have a reason to be concerned about the warning found in Deuteronomy?
When we as a nation celebrate our independence in a political sense, we often forget is that when our founding fathers declared their independence from England, they…at the same time…. made a resounding “Declaration of Dependence” upon Almighty God. When we as a nation celebrate our independence, we need to be careful….we need to watch out… that we don’t forget about GOD.
And what goes for a nation goes for the individual as well. We can’t rely on the righteous acts of others to keep us safe. We can’t depend upon the faith of our neighbors to keep Heaven’s blessings pouring out on our land. Each of us are….individually….responsible to GOD. Independence speaks of freedom…. but we need to be careful that our freedom doesn’t consume us.
June 18, 2017 -What makes an ideal father? I suppose that might depend on who you ask and maybe even when you ask them. A child’s idea may be different from someone older. A young one might think that a 365-day-a-year Santa Clause with an ice cream cone in one hand and a bag of chocolate in the other would be just about as perfect as you could get.
Someone older may think that the ideal father is defined as a man who is holding out a set of car keys in one hand and a fistful of cash in the other. And then with age there may come wisdom. To an older child, an ideal father may be the man who can be counted on to be there, to offer support and not just criticism, and when asked….provides sound advice. And I think there are those who, as they mature, go through similar stages in their concept of what a perfect GOD is as well.
Some may look to secular experts and role models. Others may look for a more spiritual connection. There are a multitude of Fathers in the Bible. We can’t tell much about the parenting skills of some of them and some are downright bad. Some are good most of the time and others are sure in the running for “Father of the Year”. But I would say that as a rule…none of them were perfect fathers.
Well…I take that back. There is ONE perfect Father, and we read about Him in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. “ This tells us something about a perfect father. A Father loves his children. “For God so loved the world…” You know, that takes in everybody. There’s no kids stomping off into the other room crying ”Daddy loves you best!” No…he loves us all.
A father loves his children. Fortunately, our Heavenly Father is not shy about expressing all those touchy-feel-y sentiments that make some men uncomfortable. His love for His children is mentioned in many places in the Old Testament, but many of these are conditional upon obedience. But here in John 3:16 we find a statement that is totally without any sort of conditions whatsoever! And it comes from the very mouth of Jesus Christ… GOD incarnate….the GOD who loves us so much that he took the form of a man and walked among us, expressing His love for us…not through inspiration…not through visions or revelation… but face-to-face…..directly from His lips to our ears.
That phrase “GOD so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son” …. sort of rolls off the tongue. When people hear it…probably most think immediately of the cross. But that cross was only the endpoint of what this gift implies. Think of what God gave up when Christ laid aside His heavenly attributes to become flesh and bone. Christ always had the nature of GOD…He is the very essence of GOD… and yet, by His own free will, He stepped away from the glory of Heaven and embraced humanity. Now, that’s Love with a capital “L”.
And so, to my Heavenly Father I say “Happy Father’s Day, Abba!” And to men everywhere I say, follow the example off what it means to be a father, and strive to earn to hear those words from your own children: “Happy Father’s Day!”
June 7, 2017 – Do you ever consider helping others? If so,what motivates you? Do you spring into action because it seems like the right thing to do, or do you first stop to consider “What’s in it for me?” What if no one would ever know the good you do for someone else, even the person you help, would you still want to lend a hand?
Sometimes we render aid in order to get recognized… to have others think and hopefully say what good people we are. Sometimes we help others because it makes us feel good. What we do is as much for ourselves as anyone else. We get a sense of satisfaction that is rewarding but unfortunately, self serving. I believe that to help means coming to the aid of someone in need, whether that be financial, physical, or spiritual in nature. Sometimes we can help someone by simply not adding to the burden they carry even when it is in our power to do so.
In Matthew 6:1-4, Jesus said that we are not to give in such a way to draw attention to ourselves. In fact, when Christ said that even our own left hand shouldn’t know what our right hand is doing implies to me that our aide should be instinctive, not calculated to gain us any kind of advantage. Jesus said a reward for such behavior would be coming from GOD, but I believe the reward is not the motivator… just a bonus. The reason I say that is because I firmly believe that the kind of help that warrants praise from God is help that comes out of love.
There are many times in life when most of us do something for someone else for no other reason than we love them, and know what we do will make them happy. It may even make us a little miserable to do it, but we do it anyway, out of love. Husbands and wives do this for each other….children and parents do likewise. Hopefully, everybody goes out of their way to do something good for another… all out of love. And I think this is the attitude we should carry into our motivation for helping anybody. Of course, we know we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, but there’s a deeper motivation at work as well.
In Isaiah 26:8 the prophet writes: “…In the path of your judgments, O Lord, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul.” The focus here is completely on GOD, not ourselves. We remember GOD… what He has said to us, and our heart’s desire should be to glorify His name.
We should help others out of love….both for the ones we help, and most importantly, for our Heavenly Father. Any other motivation falls short of the mark for Christian living. Keep asking yourself this question as you go through life: “Am I helping to bring attention to myself…to make myself feel good perhaps…or am I helping to glorify and honor GOD?”
May 25, 2017 – There are times when we humans can we be quite forgetful. This can either be a help or a hindrance, because there are actually three kinds of memory…good, bad, and convenient. It can be a good thing to forget the unhappiness we encounter in life. Other forgetfulness causes us problems. We remember we have to go somewhere for an appointment, but can’t seem to recall what we did with the car keys. We remember to put coffee in the coffee maker, but forget to turn it on. The truth of the matter is that most of us forget things from time to time. Sometimes there isn’t much consequence, it’s more a matter of a little inconvenience or embarrassment, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes our absent mindedness causes real harm and one the worst forgetfulness of all is to forget people! One of the biggest lessons that we need to learn is that God didn’t put us here and save us just for ourselves. God put us here for others as well.
On Monday all across this land of ours, people will celebrate Memorial Day. But many will celebrate for the wrong reason. Many people see it as just a day off, a three day weekend. It’s the first holiday of the summer season. It’s a time for barbecue and hamburgers, maybe going to the lake or on a picnic. But even though the real intent of the day is right there in the name (after all, it is called Memorial Day) I have a feeling that many Americans couldn’t care less. For some, if they remember anything at all, what they’re interested in is making sure they bought charcoal for the grill or put gas in the boat before heading for the river.
I suspect that for those who have actually lost a loved one because of war or military action, the emphasis of Monday will be more than a day off. No doubt many will pause and reflect on that loved one who gave their all on some battlefield so the rest of the family could go on with life as usual. But this should be true for every American, because those who have spilled their blood for this nation, those who have sacrificed to make America what she is today, have made it possible for each and every one of us to pursue peace…. prosperity…. and happiness… and most importantly….we have the right to worship GOD as He calls to us…. and we have the right to hear God’s word openly preached.
Thank God for those who sacrificed to make us free!
I said earlier that one the worst forgetfulness of all is to forget people, but that’s not the worst way we forget. The absolute worst without question is to forget God. In Deuteronomy 8:11-20, the LORD warned the Israelites not to forget Him when they became prosperous and well fed. Furthermore, in Deuteronomy 11:18-19 He said: ““You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” I wonder…have we in this land of plenty forgotten to honor our God who has blessed us so abundantly?
We have an obligation to do our very best to see to it that the gospel message is passed on to the next generation. GOD Himself expects it of us. And, we have an obligation to see to it that what we pass on to the next generation is true to the Bible, that we pass on the message found in the word of GOD unchanged and unaltered. The message found in the word of GOD needs no addition or subtraction…that message is perfect!
May 11, 2017 -“HAPPY MOTHER”S DAY!” It’s a time of respect and reflection, of either receiving honor or bestowing honor on another; and in a perfect world, Mother’s Day would be special to everyone. It’s supposed to be a happy time…but for many of us, especially those who are not spring chickens any more, or for others who have had to part with their mother at an early age, the day can be bittersweet.
There are others for which the whole concept of motherhood brings tears to their eyes…either their own experience with their mother left them with sad memories, or some desired to be mothers and weren’t for some reason. For many, the slogan for the day we hear over and over, “Happy Mother’s Day”, brings no joy.
In the Bible, we are told of a time when Jesus rode a donkey into town, with a crowd of untold number singing His praises. It should have been a thrilling moment…and yet…when He saw Jerusalem, He wept. We are told of a time when He was on His way to raise a friend from the grave…to show the power of GOD…a wondrous time to be sure…and yet again…when He saw the unhappiness of those around Him…He wept.
There’s an lesson for us here…and that’s the importance of Christians being sensitive to those around them. We need to make certain we don’t grow callous to the situations others find themselves in just because we are in a good place. This is important…if there are a thousand people…there are a thousand situations…and each and every one matters, or should matter to a Christian. How can we say that we love our neighbor as ourselves if this isn’t so?
The Bible tells us in Romans 12:15 that we are to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”. Most importantly, I believe it is essential that a Christian not do this in a hypocritical way. People can tell if your words are genuine or if you are offering up nothing more than “crocodile tears”. If you rejoice…be sincere. If you weep…be truly moved by the plight of another. Jesus never faked it, and neither should we.
Sometimes the greatest help we can be to someone is to just be there. Sometimes GOD puts us in places for a reason…to be a comfort and reminder of God’s love. Let’s make sure He doesn’t have to send another to finish a task He has given us to do.
April 27, 2017 -Here’s a news flash hot off of the presses: America’s getting to be a tough place to be a Christian. Society is getting more and more tolerant of just about everything except Jesus Christ. Just hearing the name sends some into a frenzy, and as a result, GOD is getting squeezed out of ever facet of our public life.
The World would have us to believe that it has so much to offer that we would be foolish to ignore the pleasures to be had. Temptations are all around us, seeking to lure us away from the Throne of Grace and drive us like animals towards a multitude of idols. A brand new one opened up just this week and it brought traffic to a standstill on I-5 for hours. The temptations are everywhere to be sure, and while we may not be able to isolate ourselves from them, we can certainly refuse to participate.
In 1 Corinthians 10:12-13, the Bible warns us to be careful. No one is above succumbing to temptation. That first cookie may be hard to resist, but the second may seem to be impossible! An important point to remember about temptation is this: if you don’t want to eat the second cookie, don’t eat the first one.
It’s the nature of temptation to lure us in farther than we wanted to go. Even so, scripture gives us assurance that no temptation will come our way that other people haven’t had to face, and that God will never let us be pushed past our limit to endure. He will always provide us a way out…but whether or not we take it is up to us.
Now, if you don’t care for GOD, this way out isn’t going to help very much. It is described clearly in Psalm 119:9-16, and if it will help the young avoid temptation, it’s good for everybody. I believe the key verses are verse10: “With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!”, and verse 11: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
Seeking GOD’s face and studying His word until it becomes part of us is the way out. It’s a way we all can take advantage of. If we find this unappealing or unacceptable… well, maybe there’s more than just a little temptation we have to worry about.
April 18, 2017 – Have you ever noticed that even close friends tend to drift apart if they are separated and lose contact for a long period of time? Members of any relationship can become strangers without good communication and fellowship. Communication is vital in a relationship, and is absolutely essential if there is to be growth, meaning the deepening and strengthening of ties, and an increased level of understanding.
In Psalm 139:7-10 the Bible tells us that GOD is everywhere…there is no where we can go to get away from His presence. GOD is Spirit, and is omnipresent. In verses 9 and 10 the psalmist writes “ If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” What a comforting thought! It speaks of guidance and protection.
The question is, do we really have an awareness of GOD’s presence being with us, wherever we are and whatever we face? Without that awareness, His nearness can do little to bring peace and assurance to us.
Our communication with GOD is enhanced primarily through Bible study and prayer. Without adequate attention to both, we may never gain that sense of His presence that brings comfort in times of trouble. Without them, we may feel alienated and alone. If you are a Christian, practice keeping those channels of communication open and in good repair. If you do, you’ll find yourself sensing that nearness with GOD we all need.