“Follow me!” The question is, “Will you?”

The invitation that Jesus extended to Matthew is as timely today as it was almost two-thousand years ago. “Follow me” is the standing invitation that heaven extends to all men. It is an invitation to enter into a relationship with God and Christ that is far and above any and every human relationship. That same invitation is expressed is some of the most beautiful language imaginable in at least two other passages in the New Testament: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heaven laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and by burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And he that heareth, let him say, Come. And he that is athirst, let him come: he that will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). Yet there is something about those two words, “Follow me!” Two words, yet the implications of those words could fill a dictionary, and when expounded upon would surpass the largest of encyclopedias. Consider the following.

From the standpoint of the Master Who uttered those words, it is a call to submit to His leadership. He does not lead from behind, but rather, as the Captain of our faith, He marches forward leading His army into battle, ultimately to rest on the banks of the Jordan having once and for all conquered every enemy, not the least of which is death itself (1 Cor. 15:26). Having “been in all points tempted like as we” (Heb. 4:15), He now sits on His throne taking “captivity captive” (Eph. 4:8), and assuring us that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward” (Rom. 8:18). “Follow me!” No coercion, no force, no high-handed tactics. Only two simple words: “Follow me!” With those two words He has captured the minds and hearts of men for generations; men and women who are willing to die for Him. Willing to go where He leads without question, complaining, or murmuring, they go forth conquering and to conquer. John Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, and do more, you are a leader.” Jesus was, and still is, the ultimate leader, and from Matthew Levi to the lowliest saint in the kingdom of God, the acceptance of the invitation to follow our Lord has never disappointed those who have truly heeded that call and followed in obedient faith.

That brings us to the second point. From the standpoint of the disciple, those two words, “follow me,” present a challenge to the one and only thing that can keep us out of heaven – our self-will. So far as the disciple is concerned, he must be willing to consecrate himself fully to the Lord, “deny himself, and take up his cross daily” and follow Jesus (Matt. 16:24), “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). The element of self-sacrifice is an absolute essential if we are to accept the invitation to follow Jesus. Without full and complete surrender to the will of God and the determination to weather the storms of persecution that come our way, following in the steps of Jesus will soon become wearisome and complete abandonment will follow as sure and night follows day. James Hastings is credited with the following:

In every life there must be a cross. ‘Follow me’ came the call to those early disciples, and they arose and followed Him. And as His road led Him to His Cross, so for some of them their following led them to their crosses. And for all of them their following of Him meant increasing self-sacrifice. They emptied themselves of their own desires and wishes that they might fill them with the desire for His purposes. They saw the Cross along the road they had to travel, but they did not shrink (Hastings, quotes in my file system).

“Follow me” is the call that comes to all men through the gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 2:14). There is more to this call than simply claiming to follow Jesus. It is more than having our name on some church roll, for even some of the most devoted ‘followers’ of Jesus later learned that their “mighty works” were of no avail (Matt. 7:21-23).

“Follow me” is not a frivolous call, nor is it a futile call. It is one filled with promises and blessings the likes of which we may never fully appreciate this side of heaven. We may have to “suffer hardship…as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:3), as we attempt to “walk in the light as he is in the light” (1 John 1:7), but fellow-sojourner, be assured that the promises that stand behind the call to follow Him are as strong as the Rock of Gibraltar.

No, we cannot see heaven with the physical eye; but neither did Abraham see that “city which hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10) with the physical eye. It has been said, “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.”

Thank God that Jesus spoke those two words to Matthew. And thank God that He continues to speak those words to all of us, and to generations yet unborn. “Follow me!” The question is, “Will you?”

By Tom Wacaster

Do not be SHAKEN!

Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

 Do Not Grow Weary

3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.

6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

A Kingdom That Cannot Be Shaken

18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:1-29

  • Jesus could not be shaken.
  • The Kingdom cannot be shaken.
  • May your faith never be shaken.
  • Jesus showed us how to get to heaven.
  • We must encourage one another to follow Jesus so as to also reach heaven.
  • God disciplines us at times so that we stay on track.
  • Let us also discipline ourselves to stay on track.
  • Let us never reject God who loves us from heaven and warns us from heaven.

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

Let us offer much thankfulness and acceptable worship this coming Lord’s Day, as we also find ways to encourage one another and provoke to love and good deeds.

–David Hunter

Practical joke at the Miami International Airport

“No Power Here”

His Twitter handle is “Just Basic Dave”.  That’s all I can tell you about this man, other than the practical joke he pulled last week at the Miami International Airport.

Dave ordered stickers that resemble electrical outlets from Amazon.  He placed one of them on a column in the airport waiting area, suggesting that a real outlet could be found there.  If you’ve flown much, you know such outlets are sought out by travelers who need to recharge their cell phones before boarding their flight.

Video was taken of one unlucky power-seeker.  She tried a few times to plug in her charger before realizing she had been duped.  We’re left to wonder what happened after she discovered the outlet was fake.

Many have been deceived into seeking power where there is none.  Consider this man’s search: “I built myself houses, and planted myself vineyards … I acquired male and female servants … I had greater possessions of herds and flocks than all who were in Jerusalem before me … I became great and excelled more than all who were before me … I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure” (Ecclesiastes 2:4-10).

The writer (almost certainly Solomon, though he does not identify himself) then stepped back to evaluate his labors: “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled; and indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind.  There was no profit under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).

Most people search for power for their lives in the very places this man wrote about.  If his experience is relevant, there are people who are doomed to conclude, as he did, that “All is vanity”.  What’s the purpose of living if our best efforts are in vain?

The writer of Ecclesiastes did not end his book without some positive lessons.  His final words sum up what everyone needs to know: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.  For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13,14).

The stickers placed in the Miami airport didn’t fool for long; there were no slots into which chargers could be plugged.  A few seconds, and the hoax was realized.

Satan, however, holds many in deception for a lifetime.  It will be too late when his victims realize that there was no power to be found in his outlets.

Here is what Jesus offers: “… I have come that they may have life” (John 10:10).

Come to the light God offers!  Study His word, the Bible.  Worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24).  Get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss these ideas further.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Copyright, 2017, Timothy D. Hall.

Hearts are lonely and drear, Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Jesus is very near

The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off and we fly away–Psalms 90:10

 This passage is a great summation of life. If we are in reasonably good health and barring any fatal accidents, we may live for 80 or maybe even longer. But even in the best of those years we will encounter many difficulties that will cause our feeble bodies to groan (2 Cor. 5:4). Even when all is going well with us, when all is bright and clear with not a cloud in the sky, trouble is just around the corner. Each day I live I am reminded that this life is one great adventure. We wake each morning to go about our daily activities not knowing what the day will bring forth. Will it be joy and happiness or will it be pain and suffering? Will it be peace or will it be turmoil? Will it be success or failure? Will it be life or death? We just don’t know what is going to happen from one minute to the next. I know that our God sees and knows about every thing that happens to us an so long as we hold tightly to his unchanging hand we will encounter nothing that will be able to separate us from his love (Romans 8:35-39). I love that beautiful song that begins, “Days are filled with sorrow and care. Hearts are lonely and drear, Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Jesus is very near”.

There is nothing more fragile in life than life itself (Job 14:1; Isaiah 38:12; James 4:16). David really gets to the heart of the matter when in 1 Samuel 20:3 he tells us how quickly the brittle thread of life can be snapped. We are mortals and as such the day is coming in which we will lay aside this earthly tabernacle and take that journey from whence we will not return (Heb. 9:27). Knowing this, our hearts should be set on that wonderful city of God. That is the place we should be calling home (Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 2:11). In our walk with God the difficulties we encounter on this pathway may sometimes be a burden but they will never be a hindrance because through the eye of faith we can see that land where there will be joy forever and with great anticipation we look forward to that moment when we will fly away to rest forevermore (Rev. 14:13). Today the most important thing we can do is to make sure that when the sun sets on our life we are ready to stand face to face with our God (Gal. 2:20; 2 Tim. 4:6-8)

Charles Hicks

DEALING WITH STRESS

Believe it or not, the United States Post Office does not have a monopoly on stress, and their employees are not the only ones who “freak out” from time to time. Occasionally each one of us faces stressful situations that tax our patience and test our resolve to maintain self-control. In 1991 Steve Martin starred in a Hollywood blockbuster titled ‘Father Of The Bride.’ It was a remake of the 1950’s movie by the same title, and starred Spencer Tracy. In the newer version of the movie, Steve Martin plays the part of George Banks, the owner of a successful athletic shoe company called ‘Side Kicks,” whose daughter Annie (played by Kimberly Williams) comes home with the news that she is engaged. As the story unfolds, George Banks encounters situations that produce undue stress, not the least of which is the cost of the wedding itself. It all takes its toll and George becomes so stressed out that he makes an absolute fool of himself at the local super market where he starts removing hot dog buns from their 12-packets so as to match the 8-packets of hot dogs.

Have you ever had one of those days? And if so, how do you survive it? Over the years I have come across little articles providing suggestions on how to handle stress. This notice appeared in the window of a coat store in Nottingham, England: “We have been established for over 100 years and have been pleasing and displeasing customers ever since. We have made money and lost money, suffered the effects of coal nationalization, coat rationing, government control and bad payers. We have been cussed and discussed, messed about, lied to, held up, robbed and swindled. The only reason we stay in business is to see what happens next.” Another has suggested a mathematical equation for dealing with stress: To work out life’s problems, we need to: Add love, subtract hate, multiply good, and divide between truth and error. I particularly liked the suggestion that one brother made. In answer to the question, “What is the key to surviving all the stress we encounter?” he noted: “Simply this – we must decide that we will not allow people and circumstances to determine our attitude (I said it was simple, I didn’t say it was easy).”

Among other things, deadlines are a sure recipe for stress. I have several dates before me that will eventually culminate in settling into our new home in Olive Branch, MS. Shortly after we made the decision to accept the position at MSOP, I began earnestly praying that God would grant us a smooth transition. So far He has graciously answered that prayer with regard to obstacles that might otherwise have interfered with the process. We now have a closing date on the house here, as well as the house we are seeking to purchase in Mississippi. Between the two closing dates the shipping container with all our household goods will be making its way toward its destination, scheduled to arrive two days after we obtain possession of our new house. Meanwhile we continue to pack our boxes and our bags, determined that we are not going to get stressed out, no matter what unexpected situation might come our way.

Stress is a condition that exists when any combination of factors come along that disrupt the psychological balance in a person’s normal daily life [by the way, have you ever noticed how often we find ourselves saying, “Boy, I’ll sure be glad when things get ‘back to normal’?”]. When dealt with improperly, stress results in “anxiety.” Yet Jesus tells us that a lack of faith lies at the taproot of anxiety (Matt. 6:30). That being the case, it is important to realize that anxiety is not just a little problem that has no bearing upon my spiritual well-being. Interestingly, like any other “temptation” that might come our way, God has provided a means of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). Contrary to popular opinion, stress can be managed. Suzanne Kobasa, a psychologist at the City University of New York, has identified three characteristics of individuals who effectively deal with stress: (1) They feel in control of their lives, (2) they view the unexpected as a challenge, and (3) they are committed to what they do. I suppose it is the realization that God is in control of my life, along with my commitment to Him and His Son that provides the ability to thereby face the unexpected things in life that might come my way.

One of my favorite Old Testament passages is Isaiah 40:31 – “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings of eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Like an eagle that soars above the mundane things of life, able to see the overall picture rather than the immediate storm that might threaten, the child of God can take life’s circumstances and deal with them in a most healthy way. He realizes that God is in control, and that in the long run, all things will work together for his good (Romans 8:28). Clovis Chappel once told this interesting story: Many years ago, a pilot was on an extended flight when he recognized the gnawing sound of a rat. If the rat chewed through a cable or a vital electrical wire, it could bring the small plane down. Knowing he was still two hours away from any landing field and unable to locate or neutralize the creature, he remembered that the rodent was designed for lower altitudes. So, he put the plane into a climb until he attained 20,000 feet. The pilot had oxygen, the rat had very little, and the gnawing ceased. Two hours later, upon landing, he found the dead rat.

You see, my friend, when you trust in God, and mount up with wings as eagles, those things that worry us the most seem so insignificant in the overall scheme of things. So, if you are stressed out over the stupid politicians in Washington, the unreasonable folks with which you work, or with someone in your family, why not take a deep breath, say a prayer, and decide now that you are not going to allow people and circumstances to determine your attitude. Life’s unexpected situations may be a recipe for stress, but those who remain in the fold of God can manage that stress, and turn it into stepping stones for greater service to God.

By Tom Wacaster

A study outline on the LORD’S DAY

The Lord’s Day (Hebrews 10:19-27)

In John Grisham’s novel, A Painted House, a 7 y.o. named Luke Chandler, narrates what life was like growing up on a cotton farm in AR in the late 1950’s.

A. Throughout the story, Luke has a lot to say about Sunday. It was always a special day when no work could be done, even by the migrant laborers who helped harvest the cotton, & when everyone went to church, except for the most reprehensible citizens of the community of Black Oak, AR.

B. Sundays sure aren’t like that now, are they! Rather than living in a culture which supports & encourages going to church on Sunday, there seems to be a cultural assault on Sunday as a time for worship.

C. Sunday has been commandeered for all sorts of purposes: work, sports, travel, just doing nothing in particular. Most associate Sunday with relaxation & entertainment, not with worship.

D. This isn’t entirely new. While Acts 2:46 tells us that the earliest Christians devoted themselves to worship, Heb. 10:25 notes that some believers were already in the habit of not worshiping. It didn’t take long for that trend to start, did it!

E. Given the fact that neglecting worship is a trend that we are prone to, it’s helpful for us to be reminded of what Sunday – the Lord’s Day – is actually for.

1. The basic purpose is found in the fact that it’s called the Lord’s Day.

A. Note: The Lord’s Day isn’t the same as the day of the Lord often spoken of by the prophets. The day of the Lord was the time of judgment, the end of time when God sets right everything that’s wrong in His world. (See Heb. 10:25 – the Day)

B. The Lord’s Day was a favorite early Christian way of describing what we now call Sunday, the 1st day of the week.
(1) Rev 1:9-11. John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day when he heard a voice telling him to write down the visions he was about to see. It’s usually assumed Jn was worshiping at the time.

C. But why the Lord’s Day?
(1) B/c it was Jesus’ day of victory over the grave. All 4 Gospels report that He arose on the 1st day of the week.
(2) Jn 20:1 & 19 report that on the 1st day of the week He appeared to Mary & to 10 of the apostles.
(3) Acts 20:7 specifies that the church at Troas assembled to break bread on the 1st day of the week.
(4) Some scholars suggest that Pentecost, the day the Spirit was poured & the church came into existence, was on the 1st day of the week, although we can’t know that for sure.
(5) Early Christian writers after the NT indicate that worship on the L.D. (1st Day) was standard Christian practice, precisely b/c it was Resurrection Day.
a. The Didache (approx. A.D. 95) – But every Lord’s day. . . gather yourselves together & break bread, & give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.

b. Ignatius of Antioch (AD 110) – If therefore those who lived according to the old practices (i.e., Jews) have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him & by His death. . . Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner . . . let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s day as a festival, the resurrection day, the queen & chief of all days of the week. (Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians)
c. Justin Martyr (First Apology, AD 140) wrote, And on the day called Sunday there is a gathering together in the same place of all who live in a city or rural district. . . But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, b/c it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness & matter, made the world; & Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.

D. So the LD is a celebration of our deliverance from sin, of the source of our hope, & a reminder of the future joys that await us b/c of what Jesus, our great High Priest, has done for us, especially b/c He both died & then rose on the 1st day of the week.

E. So Sunday isn’t Our Day – it’s the Lord’s Day. Scripture shows it is to be used to worship & serve Him, not for our own purposes.

F. Note: The LD isn’t the Christian Sabbath as some call it. But like the Sabbath, it should be a day when God gets priority, even more than on other days.

2. The LD is a weekly declaration that we are committed to Christ every day.

A. Example: When asked to do something, we sometimes explain that we can’t b/c we have a prior commitment that day.

B. As followers of Jesus, that’s true of us every day. Our commitment to Christ has already been made.
(1) When you were baptized into Christ, you weren’t just receiving forgiveness & new life through God’s Spirit.
(2) You were also committing your life to Christ. Mark 8:34 – deny self, take up your cross, & follow me.

C. That means your life belongs to Him (1 Cor 6:9 – bought with a price), & He is to have 1st priority all the time.

D. Being in Christ isn’t like your job – go to it at certain times & fulfill obligations, then go home. Rather, it’s more like a marriage – something that is true of you 24/7, defines who you are, affects everything you do.

E. The last thing that ought to happen in a Christian’s life is the failure to worship the One who has redeemed you b/c you prefer to fulfill your own desires instead of His. Refusing to worship = the very opposite of self-denial!

3. Worshiping on the Lord’s Day is a Firewall against unfaithfulness.

A. Heb 10:19 says b/c Jesus is our High Priest, we should have confidence to enter the heavenly places.

B. As a result, we should draw near (an expression for worship), hold fast the confession of our hope w/out wavering, & consider how to stir up one another to love & good works (vs. 22-24).

C. What we should NOT do is stated in v 25 – make a habit of neglecting to meet with other Christians. When we do, we’re failing in our responsibility to stir up one another & to receive encouragement from others.

D. But the writer has more in mind: v 26 & 27 – For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, & a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

E. That’s why worship each LD is a firewall against falling away. Just as a literal firewall keeps a fire away from us, & a computer firewall protects us from unpleasant intrusions, so worship keeps us from even getting close to turning away from Christ.

F. Now, the sinning deliberately isn’t missing worship, but it’s the same sin of apostasy – falling completely away from Christ – that he warned about in chap 6. And consistent failure to worship on the Lord’s Day makes us far more susceptible to committing that deliberate sin of turning away from Christ.
(1) Do you know how most people start down the road of turning from Christ? Not all at once, but gradually, first of all by becoming inconsistent about worship!
(2) It’s wrong to deliberately miss worship, but the great folly of it is, it puts you closer to the point of turning away completely, & you should NEVER go there!

G. Why does he say there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins? B/c if you turn away from Christ, you have no other sacrifice that will help you. See 10:4 – the blood of bulls & goats can’t do it!

H. Besides, look at what an insult to God it is to turn away from His Son: Violation of law of Moses brings death at testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses (v 28). How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, & has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, & has outraged the Spirit of grace? (V 29).

I. And how does it all begin? With refusing to meet together to worship the One who died for us to save us.

J. In vs. 30-31 he says something we may not want to hear, but we need to: God has said, Vengeance is mine, I will repay. And again, The Lord will judge His people. (Deut 32:35-36).

K. The he adds, It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
(1) Listen: If you’re right with God, there’s no better place to be than in His hands. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you (1 Pet 5:6).
(2) But the last thing you want to do is to fall into the hands of the living God if you have trampled underfoot the blood of His Son.
(3) Missing church isn’t the same as doing that – but it’s pointing you in that direction. No one ever drew closer to God by staying away from worship!

So no matter what the culture around you thinks about Sunday, it’s a day when you have a prior commitment. And that prior commitment is to meet with God’s people & praise His name for what He has done for you, & to lend your voice & your efforts to stirring up others to love & good works.

–Tommy South

Father As God Means Him To Be!

Father as God means him to be – Is like no other man we know.
Protector, helper, guide and friend, As through this world we go.

With love, Mom carried us in her womb, To help us get our start.
But Dad did, too, for all along, He carried us in his heart.

He was our coach and mentor, He refereed our fights.
He taught us how to swing a bat, And how to fly a kite.

He cheered, “See, you can do it!” As we climbed up in a tree.
In love he held us in his arms When we skinned our knee.

With a grin he dared us, “Take some risks!” He showed us how to swim.
He lived his life in front of us, So we could follow him.

His love was strong but tender, So gentle and so kind.
His love could be as tough as nails When we got out of line.

He showed us how to do what’s right, And how to know what’s wrong.
He helped us while we “learned the ropes,” And always suffered long.

He worked and gave so freely For the family that he loved.
He pictured very clearly Our Father in Heaven above.

A father who follow’s Heaven’s plan Is faithful and he’s true.
He does a task at God’s behest That no one else can do.

Many fathers fail to do their part As through this world they go.
But “Father” as God means him to be Is like no other man we know!

By: Dan Gulley, Smithville, TN

Today the average house contains 2500 square feet of living space, four bedrooms, two and half baths, a den (or family room), a living room, and a two car garage.

Sojourners

What does that word conjure up in your mind? Having now moved more than two dozen times in my preaching career, I think I can appreciate to some degree the meaning of the word. The word ‘sojourn’ means “a temporary stay” (Webster Online). So, a sojourner would be someone who does not stay very long in any one place. I have known people who have never left their immediate surroundings. I had the opportunity to speak at a university in Volgada, Russia, a mid-sized town inside the arctic circle. Out of the two dozen or so students in my class, there was a small handful who had never left that city; all they knew was the cold weather and social isolation that comes with living in that part of the world. In the first segment of ‘The Lord of The Rings’, Frodo’s friend Sam, had never ventured outside his little area of the Shire. Early in their journey, as they arrived at the extent of Sam’s travels, Frodo’s companion noted that with one more step he would have gone further than he had ever been—and he was not even out of the Shire at that point.

So it is with men and their relationship to any given point on this globe. Some are ‘home bodies,” while others become sojourners. I must admit that I have been privileged to visit places that I never dreamed my feet would trod. My four year stint in the Coast Guard took me, for the first time in my life, outside the boarders of the continental 48 states. That prepared me for extensive travel for the Lord; mission efforts that would take me to South Africa, Russia, Ukraine, Mexico, Ethiopia, Nepal, the Philippines, and India. With each and every trip I am reminded that my life is, truly, a sojourn.

Actually, every one of us are sojourners, whether we stay close to home, or whether we travel far beyond the city or state of our nativity. Consider the following.

First we are sojourners with regard to time and eternity. Each of us enters this life and immediately we begin the journey toward death and the grave. The Hebrews writer reminds us that “it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). James reminds us that life is “a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (Jas. 4:14). From the standpoint of eternity, the journey is swift, short, and sure. No man can avoid the journey, though few make proper preparation for its ultimate end.

Second, we are sojourners with regard to our relationship to those things that are temporal. Consider the words of Paul in this regard: “Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18). It remains a mystery to me why men place so much importance on the things you can see with the physical eye and touch with the physical hand, “all which things are to perish with the using” (Col. 2:22a), while ignoring the eternal. We should heed the advice that Joseph gave to his father Jacob when he invited him to join him in Egypt: “Regard not your stuff” (Ex. 45:20). All of us have our “stuff,” much of which sits on the shelve collecting dust, or is stored away in some box in the attic where spiders and moths destroy their once-intrinsic value. The past 50 years has seen a dramatic increase in the personal possessions of the average American. In the 1950’s, the average family lived in a 900 square foot house, with a single bathroom, two bedrooms, a small but adequate living area for family entertainment, and a single car garage for the one and only automobile that the family owned. With each passing decade the standard of living has increased. Today the average house contains 2500 square feet of living space, four bedrooms, two and half baths, a den (or family room), a living room, and a two car garage. In the 1950’s those seldom used items were stored in the attic. In the 1970’s our possessions increased and along with it the need for more space. So we backed our cars out of the garage and filled up the garage with our “stuff.” The 1980’s introduced us to the “storage shed” at some remote area – and for a modest monthly fee we could store all that unwanted “stuff” that cluttered up our attics and garages. Now we have attics, garages, and storage sheds full of “stuff.” Meanwhile we forget that we are but sojourners and that someday all this “stuff” will be burned up.

Third, in view of the undeniable fact that all of us are sojourners, it seems that the realization of that truth should have a dramatic impact on our life. Peter had this to say about our sojourn in this life: “Beloved, I beseech you as sojourners and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; having your behavior seemly among the Gentiles; that, wherein they speak against you as evil-doers, they may by your good works, which they behold, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-13). The child of God should appreciate the fact that he is, indeed, a sojourner. He knows this world is only temporary, and in view of that fact, he prepares for the eternal. He abstains from fleshly lusts. Why? Because he knows they “war against the soul” and eventually rob him of the goal that awaits at the end of his sojourn. His behavior is different because he is different. He knows there is a day coming when God shall once again visit His creation with the distinct purpose of bringing the journey for all men to an end. At that time our sojourn will be over, and along with the saints of every age, we will sit at the feet of our Father and enjoy the end of the journey.

A couple of years ago I included the following quote by T.B. Larimore in one of my articles. It is a fitting conclusion to this week’s column: “All time is insignificant in comparison with eternity. Time with all its rolling ages is scarcely a tiny bubble rocked upon the bosom of the sighing sea of eternity. Of course there may be many reasons why God has not furnished us in the Bible an illustration that would perfectly explain eternity. One reason – one that should be sufficient to satisfy us perfectly – is that we could never comprehend such an illustration. It is beyond the power of finite minds to understand it. All the mental power of earth could not comprehend an illustration that would fitly portray eternity.”

By Tom Wacaster

 

 

Suggestions for song leaders

You will run across several kinds of song leaders:

The “super humble” song leader, whom you can’t hear. Yet such an approach instills hesitancy on the part of the congregation, who generally do not want to be the “only” ones singing.
“I’m the show, look at me.” On the other hand, the song leader should not draw undue attention to himself.
It’s good ‘nuff for the folks I go with. This song leader feels no need to develop or improve himself.
Scolding Song leader – “Come on, people, sing like you mean it!” This is usually deplorably bad psychology and will have the opposite effect that the song leader seeks; rather than sing better, the congregation shuts down.
My genre or the highway. Contemporary? Traditional? Stamps Baxter? Classics? He forces his favorites onto the congregation and will never contemplate leading songs enjoyed by other members of the congregation.

So the following are suggestions for song leaders:

1. When the opportunity presents itself, improve your abilities: Don’t take an attitude of “It’s good enough for the folks I’m with.” Don’t use the “My heart’s in the right place” excuse. If your heart is in the right place, your heart will drive you to learn how to do this better, for the glory of God!

2. Prepare. Make thoughtful, meaningful song selections: Fashion your song service around a theme, or a movement. Make it worth the congregation’s time to have been there! The term “random preparation” is an oxymoron!

3. Announce the number twice, clearly, and in two ways: This is not a race to see how many senior citizens can be left behind trying to find the page with their aching arthritic fingers! Also remember the mom with two squirming kids trying to find the page. Or to put it differently, you want the congregation to sing with you, right?

4. Pitch the song correctly: That allows altos, bases, everybody to sing. The rumor that hymnbook editors arranged 1,000 hymns two steps too high is not true! If in doubt, the song writer and editor knows more music than you do!

5. Lead them: You are the song leader. They want to be led; they won’t sing out if they are fearful of being the “only one” singing, so take that worry out of their minds and lead! There is a sense in which song leading is a con job – your job is to instill them with confidence.

6. But remember that you are not the show: A good song leader is like a light bulb in the living room. You only notice it when it’s out. On the other hand, by being technically proficient and enthusiastic, you have freed the congregation from those worries, and allowed them to worship!

Remember, you serve the Lord, and serve the congregation. You are helping them to worship God. There is nothing more rewarding than knowing that you have helped your brothers and sisters to do the most important thing they will do today – worship God as they ought!

Stan Mitchell

Were you in the military?

After tonight’s VBS concluded, I headed to the parking lot and stopped by to see if all had gone well for the heating and air contractor who came to fix a broken a/c unit.  This man said all went well.  We talked for a couple more minutes and then it seemed time for me to depart.

As I began to step towards my vehicle the heating and air contractor, without any warning, asked a question which startled and mystified me.  He said:  “Were you in the military?”  I said, “Yes; four years in the USAF.”  Then he said, “I thought so.”  My military days were more than three decades ago so being asked if I had ever served in the military seemed pretty odd.

I asked the contractor what made him draw such a conclusion and his answer was succinct.  He said:  “Your haircut.  Your bearing and mannerisms.  You have the look.”  We talked for quite a while after he answered my question and he will hopefully accept my offer to have some additional conversations at some point in the near future.

On the way home I could not help but think of how this man had watched me for no more than two minutes and drawn such a sure conclusion about my background. The experience reminded me of how almost all of us are being watched by others, especially if we profess to be a Christian.

When people watch you, what do they see?  What do they think?  What do they hear?  Do they see Christ living in you, or do they see another child of the devil?  Give it some thought.

Matt 5:13-16:  Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do (men) light a lamp, and put it under the bushel, but on the stand; and it shineth unto all that are in the house. Even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Brad Price