Saturday, November 11, 2017

Still In The Spirit


Last Sunday morning, November 5, 2017 I attended worship as I have done for many, many years. Our congregation is by no means a large one, as some measure large, but we are dedicated to the Word of God and daily strive to live the righteous life taught within the pages of the Bible. The morning had been uneventful and after I finished teaching my Sunday school class I rehearsed the songs I was to lead the congregation in during the worship hour. The morning lesson was “Kinds of Sin” – our disobedience toward God, selfish desires, lawlessness and such. But we have a Savior, God’s Son, who gave his life to redeem us from our sins, which have separated us from God. The wages of sin is death, a debt we ourselves are not willing to pay, but Jesus took our place, paid our debt for our sins through His death, as the sin offering to God for our transgressions. Through Christ we can be reconciled into God’s favor to receive grace and mercy and forgiveness for our sins – to be a child of God. The song following the lesson was, “Out of My Bondage” (W.T. Sleeper 1887) a song portraying the willingness of one to leave the world of sin and to seek Jesus for a better life, now and forever. Our closing song was titled “Redeemed” by Fanny J. Crosby (1882). I picked this song to celebrate, that in spite of myself falling short of God’s expectations on a daily basis and the evils of the world that draw me away from His love and mercy and forgiveness, I know through confession, repentance and belief in what Jesus has done for me, I am saved and on my way to be with God forever. “Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it! Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; Redeemed through His infinite mercy, His child and forever I am. Refrain: Redeemed, redeemed, Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; Redeemed, redeemed, His child and forever I am. 2) Redeemed, and so happy in Jesus, No language my rapture can tell; I know that the light of His presence, With me doth continually dwell. 3) I think of my blessed Redeemer, I think of Him all the day long: I sing, for I cannot be silent; His love is the theme of my song. 4) I  know I shall see in His beauty, The King in whose law I delight; Who lovingly guardeth my footsteps, And giveth me songs in the night. 5) I know there’s a crown that is waiting, In  yonder bright mansion for me; And soon, with the spirits made perfect, At home with the Lord I shall be.” Little did we know, as we were singing that song, twelve miles away evil of the highest level was ending the earthly lives of 26 God-fearing people, hurtling them into eternity without any warning. From the unborn to the age of 77; boys, girls, men, women, teens, and babies all departed this world in a matter of minutes. It is still hard to fathom the depth of pain family and friends are experiencing. Even I have been touched by the loss of friends in this tragedy and this coming week will be solemn with funerals and going home celebrations. Pray for them.

[James 1:2-5; 1 Peter 1:3-9} “No Jesus – No Joy; Know Jesus – Know Joy” The “Fruit of the Spirit” is: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control (Galatians 5: 23-26). The communities of Sutherland Springs and surrounding area, despite this senseless act, have all remained in the Spirit. The evil one hasn’t even been able to steal their joy. Christians will continue to love and trust God no matter what happens in this life because they know God loves them. Whether we depart this world of natural causes or in conflict with evil, God will be there waiting for us. “...You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:13-17).

Saturday, November 04, 2017

God's Word Changes Life


In one of the offices at work we have a ductless air conditioning system just for that room. It was sort of a novelty for me when we installed it two years ago as I had never used such a system before. Unlike a window or through-the-wall A/C unit, ductless requires only one two inch hole through the wall for refrigerant tubing and electrical wires. Everything else is wall mounted inside and out, a really neat system, and it works great too. Well, like most things today, this unit operates with a remote control only and it quit working the other day. The display on the remote just kept dimly flashing random numbers and commands and nothing was happening with the A/C unit. I deduced the remote has gone bad or, most likely, the batteries were weak. I tested the batteries and sure enough they needed replacing. I installed two new batteries right out of the package aaaannd – it was doing the same thing! OH NO! Now it looks like a bad remote control! Hoping maybe some coffee or soda had found its way into the pushbuttons and circuit board, I took it apart to clean it but found no evidence of an accidental drowning. Before placing too much blame on the remote I again deduced that even with new batteries the remote was doing the same thing. So, I tested the batteries again and found one of the new batts was DOA right out of the package! One more new battery and all was good.

[2 Corinthians 4:16-18] The story is told of an old man who lived on a farm in the mountains of eastern Kentucky with his young grandson. Each morning, Grandpa was up early sitting at the kitchen table reading from his old worn-out Bible. His grandson who wanted to be just like him tried to imitate him in any way he could. One day the grandson asked, “Papa, I try to read the Bible just like you but I don’t understand it, and what I do understand I forget as soon as I close the book. What good does reading the Bible do?” The grandfather quietly turned from putting coal in the stove and said, “Take this coal basket down to the river and bring back a basket of water.” The boy did as he was told, even though all the water leaked out before he could get back to the house. The grandfather laughed and said, “You will have to move a little faster next time,” and sent him back to the river with the basket to try again. This time the boy ran faster, but again the basket was empty before he returned home. Out of breath, he told his grandfather that it was “impossible to carry water in a basket,” and he went to get a bucket instead. The old man said, “I don’t want a bucket of water; I want a basket of water. You can do this. You’re just not trying hard enough,” and he went out the door to watch the boy try again. At this point, the boy knew it was impossible, but he wanted to show his grandfather that even if he ran as fast as he could, the water would leak out before he got far at all. The boy scooped the water and ran hard, but when he reached his grandfather the basket was again empty. Out of breath, he said, “See Papa, it’s useless!” “So you think it is useless?” The old man said, “Look at the basket.” The boy looked at the basket and for the first time he realized that the basket looked different. Instead of a dirty old coal basket, it was clean. “Son, that’s what happens when you read the Bible. You might not understand or remember everything, but when you read it, it will change you from the inside out.” That is the work of God in our lives; to change us from the inside out and to slowly transform us into the image of His Son (2 Corinthians 3:18). Take time to read a portion of God’s Word each day. “All scripture is God-breathed...” (2 Timothy 3:16) and life changing.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

You Are Of Great Value


The baseball World Series holds a little more value for me this year with a Texas team in the running for the championship. It holds a lot of value for the people of Houston as they are in desperate need of something good in their life in the midst of recovering from the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Houston Strong! GO ‘STROS!

How much would you pay for a baseball? Not a baseball made of gold—one made of leather with red stitching just like any other baseball. You can get a whole bag of baseballs from a place like Wal-Mart for about $20. So what is the maximum you would pay for a baseball? What if I told you the ball had been used in a Major League Baseball game? What if I told you the ball had been hit for a home run? What if I told you the ball was Mark McGwire’s 70th home run from the 1998 season? Well, someone paid $3 million for that particular baseball. Why? What made that ball so valuable? It was deemed valuable because of the person with whom it was connected. The source matters!

A few years ago, Anne Marie Haldenstein was asked what the actual value of a human body was. Utilizing her chemistry background (PhD), she listed the elements in the body and researched their 2011 market values. She concluded that the average human was worth about a dollar, and if you could tan the skin (hide), you could raise that total to $4.50 or $5.00. Recently, Dr. James Farris cited a new study which places the value of a human at 43 million dollars. The difference is not inflation, but in things Anne Marie never thought to consider. Bone marrow, DNA, antibodies, reproductive components, and organs are in great demand and therefore quite expensive. However, there are aspects of our humanity that can’t be price tagged. How do we establish values for dreams or talents? How much is a person worth who discovers a cure for cancer? What is the love for your spouse or child worth? The place we hold in the hearts of those around us truly makes us irreplaceable and therefore - priceless.

[Matthew 6:25-34] What makes the Bible different from any other book? It is from God. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). What makes the Church different from any other institution? It is from God. “...And he (Jesus) is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead...so he might have the supremacy” (Colossians 1:15-20). Why are we so special? What makes mankind different from the plants and animals? We are made in the image of God. ...“Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…so God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26-27). Because God exists and has created, there are numerous things that become valuable and important just because they are from God. “and, once made perfect, he (Jesus) became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). In all of this discussion, we have failed to address the most crucial part of humanity: the eternal soul that God has placed within each of us. Jesus asked his disciples two probing questions in Mark 8: 36-37 “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” Each of us possesses an eternal soul which possesses divine qualities. The source matters! We are each a treasure and of great value to God. Let’s start acting like it!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Are You An Heir?


My brother is settling into my deceased sister’s house in Houston, which was her wish for him to do after her passing. It’s not an inheritance to my brother, as that went to my nephew, but it opened the door for him to rent it for as long as he wants it. Well, it’s been a year and he still hasn’t moved everything from California to Texas yet, which he admittedly confessed to me last weekend – he should have made this move a long time ago. He is currently on his last round trip, and on his way west stopped by my house and stayed for the annual Peanut Festival Parade, then in his usual manner refocused on the bigger picture, got in his truck, and headed for the west coast, not to return until the end of next month. It amazes me how death can dramatically change the lives of the living.

You’ve probably never heard of her, but, Henrietta Garrett of Philadelphia passed away in 1930 at the age of 81. Only two of the less than a dozen people who attended her funeral on the wet gloomy day in November could be classed as relatives. She was a woman unknown to fame and the world. Later, in the 1950’s, the probate court broke the news that this woman had no children and had no will. It was learned that at her death she left a fortune of seventeen million dollars. Only then did thousands rise up to call her blessed. In the twenty-five years that had passed, the estate had grown to thirty million dollars, and twenty-six thousand people then claimed to be heirs. It seemed that everyone wanted a piece of the Garrett Snuff fortune and would do most anything to be heir. (For those of you who are younger, snuff was a powdered tobacco inhaled through the nose by users). As in most cases of this type, even today, the lawyers got most of the money.

[1Peter 1:3-5] While most of us will never see that kind of money, we nevertheless can have a greater claim. Have you considered what it means to be a child of God? Jesus gave His life on the cross for us – In His Word He tells us to live for Him. If you ask, most claim to believe in God – but we must not only believe in God, we must believe God! The words of the apostle Paul read: “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are God’s children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:16-17).

Some years ago Paul Harvey reported that a poll indicated just 27.4 percent (about 20% today) of the people in this country attend worship services at least once a week. That’s less than one-fourth! There are many legitimate things such as illness, health, necessary work, and other things that can prevent us from attending worship. Yet, some seem more concerned with business, entertainment, sports and “what I want to do” than they are in the precious gift of eternal life offered through our Lord and Savior. Worship is a time to strengthen our faith, grow in knowledge, and learn more about both His love and His wrath. God wants us to worship Him (John 4:23) and we should be anxious to honor and praise Him as we assemble together each Lord’s Day. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Then we will someday stand at the throne of God and joyfully sing, “How Beautiful Heaven Really Is”! & “What a Day That Will Be”! That’s the destiny of Christians – to be glorified with Christ! The will is probated (Hebrews 9:11-28) and you can lay claim to glory. Are you an heir?

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Leftovers


At the risk of appearing snobbish or ungrateful, I’ve got a confession to make: I don’t like leftovers, i.e. cold food in need of being reheated. I always have the best of intentions to pull last night’s meal out of the refrigerator, throw it in the microwave, nuke it, and consume it, but I fail to do so time and time again. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve eaten my fair share of leftovers, but I can’t honestly say that I enjoy eating leftovers. The food never seems to taste or look the same. It lacks something after sitting in the refrigerator.

When President Abraham Lincoln was shot at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 1865, the inventory of items on his person, for some reason, just don’t seem to fit the profile of the highest ranking official of the United States of America. I don’t know why, but at first the items just didn’t seem to have that savory appeal I expected. Then it dawned on me the items only go to prove Lincoln was just a man with important employment status. Take note and see what I mean: The items consist of one pair of gold-rimmed spectacles with sliding temples and one of the bows was mended with string; one pair of folding spectacles in a silver case; an ivory pocket knife with silver mounting; a watch fob of gold-bearing quartz, mounted in gold; an oversize white Irish linen handkerchief with "A. Lincoln" embroidered in red cross-stitch; a sleeve button with a gold initial "L" on dark blue enamel; and a brown leather wallet, including a pencil, lined in purple silk with compartments for notes, U.S. currency, and railroad tickets. The wallet held a Confederate five-dollar bill and eight newspaper clippings. The clippings were from papers printed immediately before Lincoln's death, containing complimentary remarks about him written during his campaign for reelection to the Presidency. The Confederate five-dollar bill may have been acquired as a souvenir when Lincoln visited Petersburg and Richmond earlier in the month. Given to his son Robert Todd upon Lincoln's death, these everyday items, which through association with tragedy had become like relics, were kept in the Lincoln family for more than seventy years. They came to the Library of Congress in 1937 as part of the gift from Lincoln's granddaughter, Mary Lincoln Isham. Leftovers to be looked upon by generations, but never used again.

[Philippians 2:1-4] With respect to your Christian walk, do you realize that God is not interested in your leftovers? In fact, Jesus says that we are to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Among other things, this means that God should come first in every aspect of our lives. Indeed, we should NOT give God our leftover love (Matthew 22:37-38), time (Ephesians 5:15-16), thoughts (Philippians 4:8), service (Galatians 5:13), or money (Proverbs 3:9). In the mind of God, such leftovers lack something. Being content with giving God the leftovers reveals something about the person who has this attitude. John said, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:9-10). God loved us all so much in the midst of our sin that He took the initiative by sending His Son into the world to die in our place (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). God gave us His very best; in return, He expects the same. Indeed, contentment in giving God the leftovers exposes an ungrateful, selfish attitude. Leftovers are fine when it comes to nourishing our physical bodies. At times, leftovers are unavoidable, even necessary. However, with respect to God and our spirituality, a life of leftovers is unacceptable, especially when we take into account the example of His Son (Philippians 2:5-11).