30 October 2017
There are two kinds of invitations to special events; one is very specific, that is, only a select group of people, normally family and friends, are invited to attend a gathering. Then, there is the general invitation to all who would be interested in attending a special occasion. An example would be an invitation placed in a church bulletin, inviting all to attend a wedding ceremony. In this brief article, I want to mention only three invitations offered by God. The first one is found in Isaiah 1:18. But you should read the first 17 verses of this chapter to understand the background of this gracious invitation by our Heavenly Father. His people had forgotten Him; they were hypocritical; God rejected their worship because their hands were full of blood, just to name a few of their sins. Yet, God, in His mercy and longsuffering, offered this invitation to His sinful people: “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool” (V.18). Please observe it was God who made the first move in this matter of preserving Judah and saving His people. God promised them that if they would be obedient, He would bless them (V.19). God gave man the ability to make choices, whether to respond in a positive or in a negative manner. The second invitation I have chosen to mention was made by God the Son, Jesus Christ. In Matthew, chapter 11, Jesus did “most of His mighty works” in the cities that were located on the northern end of the Sea of Galilee which were, Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum. However, the inhabitants of these cities rejected Him as being the Son of God. Jesus said that it would be “more tolerable” for the “land of Sodom” and “Tyre and Sidon” in the “day of judgment” for these cities, because they would have repented had they seen “the mighty works” which He had done in their presence (11:22, 24). Because the Lord desires all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), He offered this invitation: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” To everyone who accepts this invitation by faith in Jesus Christ, and obeys the commands of the gospel (Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:26, 27), the blood of Christ will wash your sins away (Acts 22:16; Revelation 1:5). The most precious of all the invitations extended by God in the Holy Scriptures is found in Matthew 25:34 when “the King” will say to the saved ones on the judgment day, : “ Come, you blessed of My Father, “inherit the kingdom prepared for you for the foundation of the world…” After a life of faithfulness and service in the kingdom of God in this life, “an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Praise God for His infinite grace, His stedfast love and His tender mercies!!
29 October 2017
When was the last time you saw a person blush? I remember well the last time I saw someone blush. It happened to be following a Bible class conducted in the home of members of the church. After the class ended, we were enjoying eating snacks and enjoying being together. I asked this Christian lady to help me to hoe in my garden that was located on her property. She mentioned that she had asked some of the ladies present to assist me to do a certain job in my garden. The word she used to define that particular kind of labor was correct; however, when she said the word, it took on an entirely different meaning. When she realized what she had said, she ‘turned as red as a beet’ (which is an ancient saying). She was totally embarrassed! You could see the redness beginning in her neck and traveling up to engulf her face. She was embarrassed and she blushed!! That incident occurred back in the 1980s. Would you believe there was a time in the history of God’s chosen people that no one blushed? Read carefully the words found in Jeremiah 6:15: “Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,” says the LORD.” The priests, prophets and and many of the kings of Judah had led the people into idolatry and away from God. They were guilty of every kind of abominations, even to the offering of their sons to be burned in homage to a foreign god. It was a of time of immorality. Their consciences were ‘seared’. Did anyone feel ashamed of their wretched deeds? No! In fact, they did not even know how to blush! There are many of our young people who do not know the meaning of the word ‘blush’, because they have never seen anyone blush. Here is one definition found in the dictionary “A reddening of the face, especially from modesty, embarrassment, or shame.” This is not indictment against all, for there are morally conservative persons who would not be included in the following remarks. Generally speaking, we have been desensitized! The definition of the word is: “To make emotionally insensitive or unresponsive, as by long exposure...” We have come a very long way from the four letter word used in the movie “Gone With the Wind”, that appeared in 1939. Now, we hear swearing and every vulgar and ‘curse’ word imaginable on television and in the movies. We are not bothered by all the gory deaths we see on the silver screen. Children are now ‘sex-texting’ and sending nude pictures of themselves to others The swimwear used by many women reveal ninety percent of their bodies to be seen by all. There is no embarrassment, shame, and no one is blushing. However, there is a time when Christians should not blush. In the words of the song, AM I A SOLDIER OF THE CROSS, written by Isaac Watts (1721-24), and that is when we claim Jesus as our Savior. Here are the lyrics found in the first stanza: “Am I a soldier of the cross, A follower of the Lamb, And shall I fear to own His cause, Or blush to speak His name?” Of course, we are not to be ashamed of our Lord or His Word.
14 October 2017
"For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." (James 4:14). Recently, we have learned of the deaths of several of friends of ours who were near our age (82). Just this morning, Friday, 10/13/17, a young friend in Opp announced the death of his father, and a good friend of ours. I think of of Psalm 90:10: "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." It makes us think more of our mortality. We have less years ahead of us than ever before. But it is not how long we live, but how we live while on this earth.That is why the Psalmist wrote, "So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (90:12). We do not know the exact number of our days, but, the important thing is that we be prepared when life ends for us on this earth. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Proverbs 9:10). The Preacher wrote in Ecclesiastes 12:13, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." If we learn how to live, we will know how to die. I thank God often for the longevity of our lives (82), and the longevity of our marriage (62 years); however, we know of a certainty that we are nearer to heaven (by His Grace), than ever before. Remember that death is not a respecter of age. The old must die and the young do die. Please obey the will of Christ (Mark 16:15, 16);and the commands of the Holy Spirit as spoken by the apostle Peter (Acts 2:36-38).
30 September 2017
The physical act of kneeling is normally associated with an attitude of humility and a submissive will of the individual doing the kneeling. Normally, it is not done in protest. Often a person will knee and pray, asking God to heal his loved one who is critically ill. We have seen a grieving widow kneeling beside the flag covered casket containing the body of her husband who was killed during combat. Luke records in Acts 20:36 and Acts 21:5, when the apostle Paul “knelt down and prayed” before he left his brothers and sisters in Christ, and continued on his journey to Jerusalem. It must have been a very emotional scene as men, and perhaps others were weeping, thinking that they would not see the apostle again. Bible student are acutely aware of Stephen, the first martyr for Christ as recorded in Acts chapter seven. He was being stoned to death by those people who were opposed to the truth he was preaching. The last words recorded by Luke that was uttered by Stephen is found in Acts 7:60: “Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord do not charge them with this sin,” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” How merciful and forgiving was this servant of God, while kneeling, knowing his death was imminent! Jesus Christ, while in the Garden of Gethsemane, “knelt down and prayed.” Our Lord was a humble servant of His Father and He prayed, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:41,41, NKJV). Jesus knew of the terrible suffering and death He was about to experience; but, He was submissive to His Father’s will, knowing that His death on Calvary’s cross would grant salvation to all who would surrender their lives to Him. In Hebrews 5:8, 9, we read: “(T)hough He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered, And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” Our precious Savior suffered death that we might live - in Him. We all should kneel before the cross of Christ, being obedient to His will for us to do. In Romans 6:1-4, we learn that we should die to sin and be buried with Him in baptism, so that we can be resurrected to walk in newness of life. It is when we obey that form of doctrine (death, burial and resurrection of Jesus) that we are freed from sin and become servants of righteousness (Romans 6:17, 18), In the hymn, ‘Kneel at the Cross’, we have these encouraging and comforting thoughts: “Kneel at the cross, Christ will meet you there, He intercedes for you; Lift up your voice, Leave with Him your care And begin life anew. Kneel at the cross, Leave every care. Kneel at the cross, Jesus will meet you there.”