03 December 2009

Have You Hugged Your Child Today?

I know that this question has been asked millions of times and has been around for many years but it is still a legitimate question. It was on a Sunday night that a friend called and informed us of a tragedy that affected a great number of relatives and even a greater number of friends. It is such a sad story that lingers in your heart and very hard to dismiss from your thoughts even when you retire at night.

Brian and Kristy Gray and their precious little princess Helen had been to visit grandparents, great-grandparents and other relatives in Alabama and were on their way home in Winder, Georgia on Sunday afternoon following Thanksgiving Day when traffic on I85 in Georgia slowed almost to a halt for some unknown reason. It was then a driver hit the rear of their van at a high rate of speed and the impact was so strong that the almost three year old Helen was killed immediately. Kristy, the mother and wife, was critically injured while Brian was knocked unconscious. In a moment of time their world was turned upside down. Kristy is facing several surgeries on her back but there is the possibility that she may never walk again. Their families have gathered to render support in any way that they can. Friends and complete strangers are praying daily for this fine Christian couple.

I immediately emailed our four children and asked them to hug our grandchildren for their grandparents and while doing that, hug one another. All of our grandchildren live hundreds of miles from us. I watched a video of our youngest grandchild Annie sing a song about 'Grandparents Day’ at her school in Colorado Springs that her father had sent us. I felt so strongly that I needed to hug a child that I went across the street to visit friends who have three children, the youngest being a beautiful girl named Josie Lee, age seventeen months, and she came to me and I gave her a big hug. The Lord Jesus Christ loved children. When He was asked “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He then “called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will no means enter the kingdom of heaven. “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me” (Matthew 18:1-5). In Matthew 19:13-15 we read, “Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.” No doubt heaven will be greatly populated by little children who died in their innocence. The ‘little princess’ Helen is now safe in the arms of Jesus. The death of a child or a grandchild must be one of the most difficult things to deal with in this life. Our tears and heartaches are for those loved ones who remain on this side of eternity. While many of us cannot empathize with Brian and Kristy, we do weep with them (Romans 12:15). I encourage you to send a card to Brian and Kristy Gray at 1421 Langdon Park Court , Winder, Georgia 30680. And be sure to hug your children today.
Hugs From Heaven

When you feel a gentle breeze
Caress you when you sigh
It's a hug sent from Heaven
From your loved one way up high.
If a soft and tender raindrop
Lands upon your nose
She's added a small kiss
As fragile as a rose. If a song you hear fills you
With a feeling of sweet love
It's a hug sent from Heaven
From someone special up above.
If you awaken in the morning
To a bluebird's chirping song
It's music sent from Heaven
To cheer you all day long. If tiny little snowflakes
Land upon your face
It's a hug sent from Heaven
Trimmed with Angel lace.
So keep the joy in your heart
When you're lonely my dear parents
Hugs that are sent from Heaven
A broken heart will mend.

~ Charlotte Anselmo ~
(Slightly edited by me, RE)

19 November 2009

Thanksgiving


It was the Psalmist who declared, “What shall I render unto Jehovah for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of Jehovah…I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call upon the name of Jehovah” (Psalm 116:12, 13, 17). It was said that the Lord sent two angels to earth to gather the petitions and thanksgivings made by his followers. Both angels returned to heaven in distress. The angel bearing the petitions was truly weighted down with his burden. The other angel bringing the prayers of thanksgivings was nearly empty handed. The lesson is obvious and clear. Most of God’s children are more apt to make requests, petitions and supplications rather than the giving of thanks. This is often the case in private and public prayers. We need to listen to our prayers and note that this is true. Our brothers who lead the public prayers during our assemblies should express gratitude to God for all the blessings we have in Jesus (Ephesians 1:3) on behalf of the congregation. It is sad to observe that this is not done very much. I remember hearing a fellow preacher lead prayers in two different assemblies during gospel meetings wherein he never gave thanks for the grace and love of God. It is so needful that we all express our gratitude to our gracious heavenly Father for all of life’s blessings that flow so freely from His bountiful hand of grace (James 1:17).

Here are some ways by which we all can be more positive in rendering thanksgiving unto God. We need to enumerate daily our blessings of life rather than dwell on the injuries, disappointments, trials and sorrows that we have experienced. When we think in this manner we chase away the negative thoughts from our minds. Express in your private prayers the gratitude in your heart for your family, friends, food, shelter, raiment, opportunities, freedom and a thousand other things that God has given you. Your daily life should be in the likeness of Jesus Christ. Such will indicate your thankfulness for His death for you. Your countenance of happiness and your trusting manner of life will show others that you are thankful to God for His unmerited favor. Our songs in worship should be filled with praise and adoration to God and the Lamb. Sadly to say, most of our songs are focused on heaven and of exhorting one another. This is not to say that such should not be done but to leave songs of praise to God out of our singing is not right. It would be good if our song leaders began our worship assemblies with songs of praise to God. Our public prayers should burst forth with such expressions as we assemble to render our homage and devotion to God with awe and godly fear. We should carefully read the book of Psalms and notice how much space is devoted to the praise of the Lord God even when the writer was experiencing trials and tribulations in his life. His life was filled with thanksgiving and so should ours. David wrote in Psalm 95:2, “Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving…: Again he stated in Psalm 100:4, “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving…” and in Psalm 69:30, “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.”

THANKFUL HEART

I lift my heart to Thee, O God,
In gratitude and praise
For all Thy blessings of the past,
And those of future days –
For well I know if I shall live,
Thy blessings still shall flow
Across my soul in greater joy
Than I could ever know.
I thank Thee for my faithful friends,
For sunshine and the rain,
And every blessing hid or seen,
Though some may come through pain.
O God, accept my thanks to Thee
Each time I come to pray,
And grant each day that I shall live
Will be Thanksgiving Day.

~ F. W. Davis

07 November 2009

Obituary for Van B. Ingram, Jr.
~By Rebecca Click, a daughter

Van B. Ingram, Jr. was born on June 22, 1922 in Montgomery, Alabama, to Van B. Ingram, Sr. and Bessie Furlong Ingram. He died at home in on October 4, 2009, surrounded by his loving wife Gloria Peters Ingram and other members of his devoted family. He is preceded in death by his parents and a great grandchild William Hunter Lawrence. He is survived by his wife of almost 65 years Gloria Ingram, three children: Tom (Cindy) Ingram of Knoxville, Tennessee; Rebecca (Paul) Click of Vernon, Alabama; Patsy (Steve) Webber of Vernon, Alabama; two sisters Norene Brock of Murfreesboro and Virginia Guthrie of Birmingham, Alabama, and Glynn Ingram of Nashville, Tennessee, 11 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren. They include three namesakes, grandson Andrew Van Click and his son Van Alexander Click and great-grandson Charles Ingram Johnson.

Interment was at Bethel church of Christ in Vernon, Alabama with Jesse Phillips, Mike Nix, Nesbitt Sanford, and Jeff Harvill speaking at services. The family had asked that in lieu of flowers donations be made to Agape of North Alabama and Mt. Dora Christian Home and Bible School, two of the works about which he was passionate and into which he poured much of his energy. These donations are still coming and continue the legacy of service to these good works by "Daddy Van" (the name given to him by the children at Tennessee Orphans' Home in the 70's).

Stricken as a child with diphtheria and subsequent chronic joint problems, he endured much pain and numerous surgical procedures during his productive life as a gospel preacher and family services social worker. Rather than let these physical challenges stop him, he allowed the Lord to use them to strengthen him and enable him with an extraordinary ability to feel the pain of others. He developed a keen sense of humor and a fairness that helped him see things from the other person's point of view. He had that rare and valuable ability to accept others as he found them, even as he was helping them to change. He loved to work with his hands and the family treasures items he crafted in his woodworking shop.

He married Gloria, the love of his life and faithful helpmeet in all his work, on December 17, 1944. He wrote eloquently about her and what her constant help and encouragement meant to him in Our Families Magazine. She served as his secretary and "assistant counselor", as well as being faithful wife, mother, first lady to him in his leadership roles, and hostess to many visitors in their home. Their longest staying "guest" was Jimmie, a foster daughter who lived with the family for two years before marrying to begin her own home.

Ingram began preaching at a young age at West End, his home congregation in Montgomery. He was in the first graduating class of Montgomery Bible College and continued his education at David Lipscomb College with a BA in 1964 and the University of Tennessee in 1966 with a Masters in Social Work. He preached for congregations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee. He loved preaching and worked hard in full-time work through 1960, when he left the thriving congregation in East Point, Georgia to pursue the education that would prepare him to work more extensively in his burning desire to help heal hurting children and families. He served as an elder in four congregations throughout the years. Demonstrating his wonderful ability to multi-task (he credited Gloria with facilitating that) he supervised the boys dormitory at Lipscomb and preached for Woodson Chapel for four years while finishing his bachelor's degree, then continued to preach for an additional two years as he completed his Masters.

This education equipped him to begin officially the works he did so diligently and in which he became a Christian pioneer. He moved to Mt. Dora, Florida where he was pivotal in instituting full services in child care. After six years there, he went to work with Greater Chattanooga Christian Services, a non residential care program in child and family services. From there he was persuaded to go to Tennessee Orphans Home where he saw that full services, including adoption and foster care were instituted. His support in these efforts was evident in the fact that contributions to TOH were the highest in the Home's history during the years he served there. Upon leaving TOH, Ingram was offered several secular positions in social services, but could not leave his love of ministering to the hurting through the avenue of church programs. Agape of North Alabama employed him to work with them as Director from 1974-1988. In addition to his responsibilities directing and raising funds for that work, he consulted and helped establish several other full service programs supported by the churches of Christ throughout the Southeast.

In 1988, when Ingram retired from Agape, board member Emmitt Sanders, dubbed him "Mr. Agape" because of the huge contributions that he had made in making this agency a strong force in family and child care. Ingram was a trail blazer in moving church sponsored programs into full services through which every resource, including extensive counseling and optimal use of foster and adoptive homes, was used to help children--his tireless work this side of the Mississippi mirrored what Bro. John White was doing on the other side of the river. Ingram leaves a legacy because of the many lives he touched and also because of the mentoring and training he gave to individuals who continue to use the lessons learned from this giant in the Lord's service.

Upon "retirement" Van and Gloria moved to Lamar County, Alabama, where he was supported part-time to provide counseling to anyone in need of it as a service of the church. They also began their work with Sojourners, travelling in their own RV to meet the needs of churches, schools and Christian camps. While in this endeavor, he and Gloria coordinated the Sojourners Workshop in Florida for several years. He also answered a call from the church in Spring Hill, Florida to do mission work as full-time minister there from 1995-1998. He completed his full-time pulpit ministry in 2005. He demonstrated his diligence to the Word when, even in his last years of preaching, he prepared new sermons, even though he had hundreds in his files that he had presented. He was valued as a visiting speaker in meetings and workshops, especially on the Home and Family as he gained experience and expertise in that area.

The work of this mighty man of God has touched countless lives through the years, and many of you have communicated these thoughts to the family during this time of loss. The family expresses deep appreciation for all the many acts of kindness, including the generous donations to Agape and Mt. Dora. While Mrs. Ingram has the reputation of being a diligent correspondent, she is working to re-build her health and is unable to communicate as readily as she would like at this time. She and the family would like for the many friends and supporters of their work to know that she is deeply grateful for every single sweet sentiment expressed during this difficult time. Clearly, the Lord has a special place in his heart for the helpless, especially widows and orphans, and the family is thankful for the tenderness you are showing to Van Ingram's widow and your remembrances of their life-work of serving "orphans".

08 October 2009

Young Hearts at 201 Years Old ~

Now before you jump to any conclusion, I am speaking about two lovely Christian ladies who have served the Lord Jesus Christ faithfully for many, many years. I was associated with these beautiful ladies for some 29 years while serving as the preacher for the two congregations where they are members.

I speak, first of all, of sister Gertrude Jones who is a member of the congregation in the city of Opp, Alabama . I met sister Jones when the family and I moved to that city in 1971. This sweet lady endeared herself to my family because of her kindness and gentleness. We ate in her home during gospel meetings with the visiting preacher and on many other occasions. She loves our children very much. Even now she will ask about them. Sister Jones informed me of her sister who was bedridden and asked me to visit her which I did regularly until her death. This act contributed to our closeness because she was so thankful for my doing so. Sister Jones was always busy visiting and helping her neighbors and brothers and sisters in Christ. She was indeed concerned with the needs of others.

We moved from Opp in 1983 to Prattville . Over the years Virginia and I have visited with sister Gertrude. I remember one visit when she was in her early 90s. She said to me that it was difficult to get someone to go visiting with her because most of her friends had died that were in her age group. But she informed me that she still cooked food and carried it to the ‘elderly’ people. Now that really impressed me and caused me to smile. “Gert”, as her close friends call her now resides in a nursing home. She celebrated her 100th birthday anniversary with family and friends in July of this year. A couple of months ago Virginia and I visited with her. She was in bed and she looked frail in body but her reception was as cheerful as ever. She welcomed us in deep emotions with her usual greeting, “You are just like family to me.” And that feeling is mutual.The second Christian lady of whom I speak is sister Dessie Snell, a member of the Prattville church of Christ . She might be affectionately called the ‘card lady’. For nearly seventeen years she would often call me on Monday mornings to inquire about someone’s address that had been mentioned as sick or of someone who had been visiting with us during the Sunday assemblies. I can still hear her as she began speaking in her sweet voice, “Hello Brother Elliott….” I knew immediately why she was calling me. It was in February of 1983 that we moved to work with the Prattville congregation. In May, 1983, we were invited to attend her birthday party. She was only 75 years old. This year she celebrated her 101st birthday anniversary with family and friends!
Over the years she has sent thousands of cards to the sick, sorrowing, visitors, new members, and for special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. Just recently we received a sweet card from her. She is apologetic that she just can’t do as much as she once did. While in good health and even when she didn’t feel well you would always see her sitting up near the front during the worship assemblies. If her health would permit her she would be in attendance even now. She informed me that she is presently trying to meet the challenge of reading the Bible through in forty days. She loves to have company. You always feel blessed by being in her presence. I thank God for her wonderful Christian example.I have endeavored over the years to ask God in my daily prayers to bless our aged saints. So many like sister Jones and sister Snell have strengthened and encouraged me by their kind words and holy and dedicated lives in Jesus Christ. I have learned more from them than I have ever taught them in my preaching. I think the following poem best describes these saintly ladies.
THE AGED CHRISTIAN WOMAN
Titus 2:3

You tell me I am getting old;
I tell you that’s not so!
The “house” I live in is worn out,
And that, of course, I know.
It’s been in use a long, long while;
It’s weathered many a gale.
I’m really not surprised you think
It’s getting somewhat frail.

The color’s changing on the roof;
The window’s getting dim,
The walls a bit transparent
And looking rather thin.
The foundation’s not so steady
As once it used to be.
My house is getting shaky,
But my “house” isn’t me!

My few short years can’t make me old;
I feel I’m in my youth.
Eternity lies just ahead,
A life of joy and truth.
I’m going to live forever there.
Life will go on – it’s grand!
You tell me I am getting old?
You just don’t understand!

The dweller in my little “house”
Is young and bright and gay,
Just starting on a life to last
Throughout eternal day.
You only see the outside,
Which is all that most folks see.
You tell me I am getting old?
You have mixed my “house” with me!

- Dora Johnson, Christian Woman

06 October 2009

Children That Are Grand

The Psalmist wrote, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate” (Psalm 127:3-5). While he wrote regarding one’s children, the same can be said about grandchildren. Someone has said that had he known how grand grandchildren were, he and his wife would have had them first! Virginia and I have been blessed with nine grandchildren and we love them dearly. We pray nightly for their physical and spiritual well being. We want them to love Jesus and give their lives to Him. Because of our age I think what the Psalmist wrote in chapter 71:17-18 could apply to us: “O God, You have taught me from my youth; And to this day I declare Your wondrous works. Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, your power to everyone who is to come.”

How wonderful and beautiful it is to be loved by your children’s children! There’s nothing exactly like it. Our nine grandchildren are talented in various ways. Unfortunately they all live in different states and they live a long way from us. Virginia and I cherish the times when our grandchildren would express their love to Papa and Ma. The youngest grandchild, Annie, came into this world loving singing. She would sit in my lap and listen for long periods of time to hymns being played on a CD. If I changed to instrumental music she would become disturbed, so I would go back to the Christian hymns. Here is Annie, age 5 years and 8 months old, the daughter of Matt and Lela singing a song to her Papa and Ma. The occasion was for a Grandparents Day program at her school in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (In order to resume the background music, please click here to be directed to our Annie's performance. Thank you ~RE)

24 September 2009

Clouds


For several weeks we have experienced a real ‘monsoon’ season in the southeast section of our country. But I don’t remember enjoying looking at the clouds in their various sizes and shapes since my childhood. Even the sunsets have been enhanced as the sun rays are seen beaming around a magnificent cloud. Some of the cumulus clouds reach perhaps 20 to 30 thousand feet in height. The beautiful blue sky at times has been filled with soft pillows of clouds. Other clouds that hang low and are darker in color have for their background the larger whiter clouds. Some clouds hide the sun and make for cooler weather while working in the yard or in the field. Then there are storm clouds that bring lightning and loud bursts of thunder and heavy rains and sometimes hail. On some days the entire sky is overcast with clouds that can make a person feel depressed. But, all in all, clouds are beautiful and they make believers appreciate God’s creation. The Psalmist declared, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1). You need to stop for awhile from your busy schedule and look upwards to the beautiful scenes not made with man’s hands.
It is amazing how often we read about clouds in the Bible in connection with important persons and events. Here is a list of just a few times clouds are mentioned in both the Old and New Testament ~
*God set a rainbow in the clouds (Genesis 9:13).
*A pillar of cloud guided the Israelites during the day on their exodus from Egypt (Exodus 13:21).
*The glory of God often appeared in a cloud (Exodus 16:10; 19:9; Numbers 11:25).
*A cloud covered Mount Sinai when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments (Exodus 24:15-18).
*A cloud filled the Holy Place and the house of the Lord when the glory (Divine Presence) of God appeared (I Kings 8:10-13). This is called the Shekhinah.
*“A day of clouds” is mentioned when God speaks of punishment on Egypt , Ethiopia and other enemies of Israel (Ezekiel 30:1-4).
*Job describes how rain is formed from the drawing up of the water “Which the clouds drop down and pours abundantly on man” (Job 36:27, 28).
*Daniel wrote of the time when “One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him” (Daniel 7:13, 14).
*“A bright cloud overshadowed them” on the Mount of Transfiguration when God said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matthew 17:5).
*At the Lord’s judgment upon the city of Jerusalem the “Son of Man” is depicted as “coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).
*Luke wrote about the ascension of Jesus in Acts 1:9, “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.”
*The apostle wrote that the Israelites “all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (I Corinthians 10:1, 2).
*Paul, in giving encouragement to the Thessalonians regarding their loved ones who died in Christ, wrote of the second coming of the Lord in this manner, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
*Both Peter and Jude wrote harshly concerning false teachers who would lead Christians astray as being like “clouds carried by tempest” and “clouds without water, carried about by the winds” (II Peter 2:17; Jude 12).
*The apostle John wrote that the Lord Jesus Christ was “coming with clouds” (Revelation 1:7).
John also “saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud” (Revelation 10:1).
*In the highly figurative book of Revelation John wrote, “Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle.” This was regarding the reaping of the earth’s harvest, a matter of punishment (Revelation 14:14-16).

Sanford F. Bennett in 1867 wrote the beautiful lyrics of the song “Sweet By and By” and the first stanza tells us that “There’s a land that is fairer than day, And by faith we can see it afar; For the Father waits over the way, To prepare us a dwelling place there.” In the book of Revelation we read that “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light” (21:23). Also “There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever” (22:5). It is necessarily inferred that no clouds, especially storm clouds, will be there as the beautiful hymn “O They Tell Me of a Home” teaches:

O they tell me of a home far beyond the skies,
O they tell me of a home far away;
O they tell me of a home
Where no storm clouds rise,
O they tell me of an unclouded day.
O they tell me of a home
where my friends have gone,
O they tell me of that land far away
Where the tree of life
In eternal bloom
Sheds it fragrance thro the unclouded day.
O they tell me of the King
in His beauty there,
And they Tell me that mine eyes shall behold,
Where he sits on the throne
That is whiter then snow,
In the city that is made of gold.
O they tell me that He smiles
on His children there,
and His Smile drives their sorrows away;
And they tell me that no tears
Ever come again,
In that lovely land of unclouded day.
O the land of cloudless day,
O the land of an unclouded sky;
O they tell me of a home,
where no storm clouds rise,
O they tell me of an unclouded day.”

~ Josiah K. Alwood, 1890

03 September 2009

In Memory of Byron L. Benson

If you called him at his home it would indeed be a rarity to reach him. You would get his answering machine and hear him say, “You have reached the BENson residence…” I really don’t know when he slept. He was always on the go somewhere. He was consistently doing something for his family or visiting the hospitals or training his grandchildren to eat catfish downtown at the Farmers Market CafĂ©. He was a connoisseur of good country cooking. Since he spent so much of his time in the lower part of Montgomery County and in Crenshaw County, the people at Chic’s in Highland Home or the Chicken Shack in Luverne would have known him by name. I have never known any gospel preacher who attended more gospel meetings than Byron. Oh, how he loved to sing. Regardless of the weather or the distance, you could count on Bryon being present for these occasions. He served on the Board of Regents of Amridge University (I encouraged him to do so). He was on the planning committee for the Capitol City Prayer Breakfast and he would call 40-50 people to attend this bi-monthly service. No one worked more diligently for this good work. He and I alternated in being the MC for this event. Often we would take a jab at one another in fun.

Byron loved to preach. He was zealous for the local congregation where he labored part time (a misnomer in his case). He seldom missed preaching on Sundays while he was with the Grady congregation for some 36 years. His last work was with the Capitol Heights church in Montgomery (5 years). He loved to do his radio program live. Brethren knew they could depend on him for brotherhood news regarding singings, gospel meetings, lectureships, etc. It seems that he knew everyone and everything that was going on among the congregations in central and south Alabama. He preached for some 37 years on the radio, assuming this role following the beloved Clyde Fulmer.

Byron was my friend. Virginia and I helped to sing for the wedding of Byron and Carolyn which was conducted in the West End church building some 52 years ago. Byron, Carolyn, Roger and Helen Dill and Virginia and I would often eat together on special occasions such as birthday and wedding anniversaries as well as other times. On one occasion, the total number of years of marriage between the three couples was 150 years. Our server couldn’t believe it. Once, while we were enjoying a meal together, I found a rather large insect in my glass of tea after I had taken a couple of drinks. In a very short time the manager was at my side apologizing for the incident and gave me my dinner free of charge. From that time on Byron and Roger would ask me if I brought my insect with me when we would be eating together.
Christian friendship is one of God’s richest blessings. I shall miss the many telephone calls from Byron as we talked about Sunday’s assemblies and many other subjects. He retired from ATT&T several years ago. He believed in communicating via the telephone. But he didn’t have much confidence in emailing others or in taking the time to read the ones sent to him. It was in April of one year when he called me and said that he had just read my Christmas card I had sent him the previous December. We enjoyed a good laugh together. When I would call him on his cell phone I would usually ask him, “Byron, where are you?” He would be somewhere doing something for someone. If I could call him now and ask, “Byron, where are you?” he would say something like “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain”, or, “to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:21, 23). This is the blessed assurance that we have in our Lord Jesus Christ. My good friend you may now rest from your labors of love but your works and influence will continue for generations to come (Revelation 14:13).

21 August 2009

He Shall Be Like a Tree ~

"He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water"
Jer. 17:8
There were times while taking my morning walks on Saint Simons Island, Georgia that the sun's rays could not reach me because of the beautiful oak trees with their overhanging limbs covering the street below. Trees are one of God’s most beautiful creations and especially these particular trees laden with Spanish moss. The trees on the island are so respected that streets are built around them. I have often thought of a poem we had to memorize in school many years ago.
TreesAlfred Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
Psalms One is a favorite of scores of saints. Therein is a contrast between a godly and an ungodly person. It is of the believer in God that demands our attention in this article. Undoubtedly David is the writer and he informs us that this man is blessed; that is to say he is happy and fortunate. This is one of several ‘beatitudes’ mentioned in this book. Please observe that the negative is first mentioned as pertaining to this man’s character. He “walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful.” This means that he does not habitually seek the advice/counsel of those individuals who would influence him to do evil. He does not associate with sinners in such a manner that others would consider him one of the ‘in groups’. And certainly he would never join the ungodly scoffers of all that is good and sit with them in their devilish fellowship and participate in their evil doings.

This blessed man is one whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.” “Law” would not only be the Ten Commandments but would include the first five books of the Old Testament and the words of the prophets who spoke by the guidance of the Holy Spirit as mentioned in 2 Peter 1:20, 21: “(K)nowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” This man of God takes great pleasure and satisfaction in having access to the Word of God to read and to meditate on its message for his spiritual growth and well being. The writer in Psalms 119:47, 48 & 97 expresses the same in this manner: “And I will delight myself in Your commandments, Which I love. My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments, Which I love, And I will meditate on Your statutes.” “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” Such an attitude should permeate the very life of a disciple of Jesus Christ (John 8:31, 32; 2 Timothy 2:15).

The Psalmist compares this blessed child of God to one of His creations: “He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its seas, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And what he does shall prosper.” Notice that the tree was planted by someone. It did not accidentally grow in that location. The seed (Word of God) that is planted in the good ground (heart) “is able to save your souls” (Luke 8:11; James 1:21). The moisture from the rivers (channels) provides the nourishment to keep the tree healthy and strong and enables it to bear fruit to be enjoyed by all. Even in times of drought the leaves stay green because water is nearby. The Lord God blessed Israel in various ways when the people served him faithfully. The land produced bountiful crops; the herds multiplied; wives gave birth to children and there was food to eat. The Holy Scriptures contain manifold promises to the children of God who trusts in Him. Jesus taught this as recorded in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” I Corinthians 3:21: “Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours.” 2 Corinthians 9:6: “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” The righteous man will “bear much fruit” as he is led by the Spirit (John 15:8; Galatians 5:22, 23).

Because Christ dwells in the heart of the righteous man by faith, he will be “rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17). This ‘tap root’ of faith in Jesus Christ and in the knowledge of His Word, will prevent him from being “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:11-16). He will “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). This is one version of an old folk song that should express the conviction of every Christian.

I Shall Not Be Moved
Words by John Benson, Jr.
Jesus is my Savior, I shall not be moved; In His love and favor, I shall not be moved, Just like a tree that's planted by the waters, Lord, I shall not be moved.

In my Christ abiding, I shall not be moved; In His love I'm hiding, I shall not be moved, Just like a tree that's planted by the waters, Lord, I shall not be moved.

If I trust Him ever, I shall not be moved; He will fail me never, I shall not be moved, Just like a tree that's planted by the waters, Lord, I shall not be moved.

On His word I'm feeding, I shall not be moved; He's the One that's leading, I shall not be moved, Just like a tree that's planted by the waters, Lord, I shall not be moved.

I shall not be, I shall not be moved; I shall not be, I shall not be moved; Just like a tree that's planted by the waters, Lord, I shall not be moved.

11 August 2009

Jesus Christ Would Have Made a Difference


This is a very sad, but true, story of a family of my personal acquaintance that was non religious and afflicted with the curse of alcoholism.

We lived in a very large old house on the ridge just out of town. Someone was building a new brick house on the road back of us. My younger brother and I, along with other friends, were curious. We found a nice sand pile that tempted us to play in and to enjoy. One day the big man who was laying the bricks told us that someone was scattering his sand that he used in making the mortar and he asked us to watch out for the persons and warn them not to do it again. How wise he was. We never played in his sand again. This was my first acquaintance with Mr. Harold.

He and his family soon moved near us and they became good friends with my family. He had a very attractive wife, two handsome sons and a very pretty daughter. The oldest son became a friend with my older brother. I liked the daughter but she was older than me. I wished her and my brother would like one another. The youngest son and I became friends. We were in the same grades in elementary and junior high school. Mr. Harold’s wife died while I was a boy.

I don’t remember this family attending any religious organization. I learned also that Mr. Harold had a very bad habit of getting drunk on occasions. His youngest son and I considered joining the Boy Scouts but he did not because he said, “I don’t want anyone telling me what to do.” He had a rebellious attitude. He later married but he and his wife divorced. He was killed in a motorcycle accident. He also drank alcoholic beverages.

Mr. Harold’s daughter married a nice man but something went terribly wrong. She shot and killed him one day. Some years later she committed suicide. Their son attended the same college that our oldest son did and they became friends. But after his mother died, he committed suicide two years later.

The oldest son of Mr. Harold joined the Navy and served for years in the service. It was well known that he was addicted to alcohol. During a time of heavy drinking someone shot and killed him. I learned just recently that his son was killed by his wife. Neighbors said that they had been drinking all day and had been arguing. So even in the third generation of Mr. Harold’s family there was drunkenness and violence.

Mr. Harold later married after his first wife died. He claimed that in self defense he had to shoot and kill his step-son.

The handsome family I once knew when I was a boy is now gone. For the most part there was the absence of the Lord Jesus Christ and the presence of alcoholism and violence in this family for three generations.

If only Jesus Christ had been a part of this family, the members would have known the “peace that passes all understanding”, forgiveness of their sins and the hope of eternal life. The fruit of alcohol beverage is totally bad. It should be avoided completely. The decisions we make as parents morally and spiritually can and often does affect generations to come. It is with a sense of deep sadness in my heart that I recall these facts of friends of years past.

23 July 2009

The Light That Is Shining In the Darkness

One of the historical sites to see on Saint Simons Island, Georgia is the Lighthouse, which is located near the village. I have often walked by it while visiting there. The first lighthouse was built in 1810 and it was 75 feet tall. The second one that replaced the first one was erected in 1872 and was 104 feet tall. Not having the experience of a sea faring person I have often wondered how much a lighthouse would mean to me if I was lost in a storm at sea and/or approaching land in the darkness of night. Surely the light beaming across the waters would be a lovely and thankful sight for the captain of a ship. And so this well known hymn came to mind.
LET THE LOWER LIGHTS BE BURNING
Brightly beams our Father’s mercy
From His lighthouse evermore,
But to us He gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.
Dark the night of sin has settled,
Loud the angry billows roar;
Eager eyes are watching, longing
For the lights along the shore.
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.
Let the lower lights be burning,
Send a gleam across the wave!
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.
- Philip P. Bliss, 1871
~~~~~~~~~

The apostle John wrote in 1 John 1:5, “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” James referred to God as being “the Father of lights” (1:17). John also wrote of Jesus, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:4, 5). Jesus spoke of himself in this manner, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). Therefore that which is spoken of God the Father as being light is also applicable for Jesus the Son. In God there is perfect light. Darkness cannot penetrate the light. God is perfect in holiness. He is wholly righteous. Darkness depicts Satan’s realm of sin and moral depravity. Souls that do not come to the Light sink in a sea of eternal sorrow and separation from God and all that is good. In nautical terms there is a sure guide and compass that can lead a lost soul to salvation in Jesus Christ who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). The Psalmist declared in chapter 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” Again in verse 130 of the same chapter, “The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.” The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:8-10, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” “(T)he gospel of Christ” “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16). And that is the reason the church should be sending the “blessed gospel light; Let it shine from shore to shore.” and “forever more.”

While Jesus was on earth He taught His disciples the following, “You are the light of the world…” (Matthew 5:14-16) While we are not to shine our light we are required to let our light (life) shine so that by our good works the Father will be glorified. When we walk in the light as He is in the light the blood of Jesus continues to cleanse us from all sin (1 John 1:7). We are instructed to “walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). Furthermore we are to “shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). Eventually when this life on earth is finished we will be ushered into “the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11) where “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light” (Revelation 21:23). “There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5). When tossed about by every wave of doubt and despair in a sea that is dark and dreary let us never take our eyes off the Light that is truly guiding us to a safe landing on that eternal shore.
“There’s a light ‘long the pathway,
It’s guiding me home,
Leading to that eternal day;
And it beckons me on
When the pathway seems dark,
There is a light that is shining for me.
When the way seems so heavy,
The burdens to bear,
There’s a Light that is shining for me;
Then I think of my Savior on Calvary there,
There’s a light that is shining for me.
I am happy today and I’m nearer my home,
There’s a Light that is shining for me;
Just over the way is the Mansion above,
There’s a light that is shining for me.
There’s a light guiding me thru
the darkness of midnight,
Till the morning I see
There’s a light guiding me.
He is guiding me home,
There the harbor I see,
Till I’m safe in the fold,
There’s a light guiding me.”
- Alton H. Howard, 1973

03 July 2009

To the Oceans, White With Foam

During our family gatherings on Saint Simons Island , Georgia it has been my habit to arise early in the mornings and walk on the beach down to the pier and the village, where I would buy a cup of coffee, eat breakfast and read the daily newspaper. Being from the hill country of northwest Georgia I am still fascinated by the appearance of the Atlantic Ocean . When the tide comes in the waves would hit the rocks and splash over them. The white caps were beautiful. Often I would express my deepest gratitude to God for His marvelous creation. Both the heavens and the earth with its seas declare the glory of God (Psalms 19). The book of nature indeed proves that there is a Supreme Architect who designed this universe (Romans 1:20). Though not a world traveler I have seen some of the beauties of our country with its mountains in the southeast and in the western part of our nation, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean . With all the faults that exist in our United States of America I do believe as a citizen that we live in the greatest nation on earth.

The pilgrims and early settlers sought freedom to worship God in this new land while settlers in the South American countries sought gold. Our governmental leaders possessed a faith in the Creator of the universe. There is no doubt but that the Lord God has richly blessed this land and its people. The wise man declared that “Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). While sin and disbelief have always been in existence our modern day society has strayed greatly from a faith in God and from His moral standard for human conduct. Atheism is growing daily; sexual perversion is common place; dishonesty and corruption are widely accepted and exist among many of our political and civic leaders; the killing of unborn children is considered acceptable since it is legal; adultery is prevalent among marriage partners and fornication among teens and adults abounds nationwide. Man has become a law unto himself (Judges 21:25). The Word of God is no longer reverend even among some religious groups.

The blood of thousands of our men and women who have fought for our country and our freedom flows like a mighty river; yet, we are using this freedom to destroy the moral fiber of our people. It has become a license to do as we please without considering what God would have us to be as a nation of people. Eventually we will reap as we have been sowing (Galatians 6:7, 8). It is most important that we give heed to the following warnings: “The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the nations that forget God” and “Now consider this, you who forget God, Lest I tear you in pieces” (Psalm 9:17; 50:22).

The story is told about a student who wanted to fool his professor in some way. He held a bird in his hand and asked the professor, “What do I have in my hand?” The professor replied, “It is a bird.” The student asked, “What color is it?” “It is a red bird” answered the professor. Then the student asked, “Is it dead or alive?” The wise old professor said, “The power of life or death is in your hand?” The power to revive faith in God and His standard of morals and ethics is in our hands. May the lyrics of the beautiful song ‘God Bless America ’ written by Irving Berlin ever be our desire, hope and prayer.
God Bless America
"While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer."
God Bless America, Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America , My home sweet home.

11 June 2009

Cultivating Marital Love

A few years ago I visited a very fine Christian couple who lived in a community several miles from my home. After a cordial welcome and a conversation on a variety of subjects, the husband informed me of the problems existing in their son’s marriage. As I listened, it was easy to detect the deep sadness that filled the hearts of these parents. This brother mentioned that he had been concerned for some time since he thought that his son and daughter-in-law had not been trying to improve their relationship. He said, “Love that is not cultivated will soon die.” I could not forget that statement that was filled with many pertinent points regarding the necessity of permitting love to mature.

In oriental countries a custom has been in times past for the parents to select their children’s future mates. It seems that the couple enters marriage with a nominal amount of affection but with the passing of the years that love is cultivated and matures. Whereas so many of our young folk in our society get married in the heat of passion and their love subsides in a few years. The present divorce rate is proof that there is a wholesale failure in our marriages in this country. There is real need to cultivate marital love. Webster defines the word cultivate as follows: “1. to prepare and use soil, land, etc for growing crops; till 2. to break up the surface soil around (plants) in order to destroy weeds, prevent crusting, and preserve moisture…4. to improve or develop (plants) by various horticultural techniques 5. to improve by care, training; or study; refine (to cultivate one’s mind) 7. to seek to develop familiarity with; give one’s attention to; pursue.”

Especially in this analogy, attention should be given to definition number two, that is, “to break up the surface soil around (plants) in order to destroy weeds, prevent crusting and preserve moisture.” Certainly in marriage there is the constant need to eliminate the negatives that would destroy the proper relationship between the husband and the wife. Every effort must be made to keep the marriage from “crusting”. Love will become hard if not cultivated.

Also care must be given in preserving and maturing marital love. This requires the obtaining of wisdom; knowledge and training to develop (cultivate) this love. A very wise man wrote: “The plainest man that can convince a woman that he is really in love with her has done more to make her in love with him than the handsomest man, if he can produce no such conviction. For the love of a woman is a shoot, not a seed. And flourishes most vigorously only when grafted on that love which is rooted in the breast of another.” I want to mention some suggestions that will enable marital love to be cultivated and to mature with the passing of the years.

First of all, husbands and wives should learn early in their marriage relationship to give themselves totally to each other. Love is something that must be given away in order to receive it. This is true in every aspect of marriage including the sexual relationship (See I Corinthians 7:1-6). Marriage is not a fifty-fifty relationship but it is the giving of oneself one hundred percent to making the marriage successful, happy and enjoyable.

Second, there is the need to be unselfish in marriage. Paul wrote that loves “does not seek its own” (I Corinthians 13:5). It would be wonderful if each partner sought the other’s good and welfare at all times. But if one is not careful self will be the focal point in every deed. And this is when trouble arises. Selfishness suppresses service for others. It is probable that most marital problems can be traced to this root sin of self-centeredness.

Third, love should be expressed both by words and actions. While it is good for the husband to bring an occasionally gift home for his wife, however, there is no substitute for those beautiful words, “I love you.” Often the husband is reluctant to verbalize his feelings for his wife. True love can also be best understood by its characteristics. Henry Drummond mentioned several of them in his book, “The Greatest Thing In the World.” They are: “Patience, kindness, generosity, humility, courtesy, unselfishness, good temper, guilelessness, and sincerity”. Of course the apostle Paul wrote of such characteristics of love nearly two thousand years ago as is found in I Corinthians 13:4-8.

Fourth, one needs to learn not to hold grudges. There is real trouble brewing when a tea kettle cannot release the steam that has been created by the heat of a fire. A husband or a wife who harbors resentment will eventually explode emotionally. The advice of the apostle Paul is worthy of heeding in the marriage relationship: “Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26). Sure there will be disagreements in marriage but how beautiful it is when there is forgiveness and reconciliation. When one has been wrong there is the need to say, “I am sorry”. And the response should be, “I forgive you.”

Fifth, before problems have become so great and seemingly insurmountable, help should be sought from a trusted friend. This assistance may be found in the person of an elder, a preacher or a Christian friend. There may be the need of seeking the help of someone who is trained professionally in marriage counseling. The institution of marriage is so precious in the sight of God that every effort should be made to save this relationship.

In closing, the point should be emphasized that when two people truly love the Lord, their love for one another will become stronger. The reason being, when the husband and wife draw nearer to God, they are drawn nearer to one another. This is a fact that cannot be denied. The result is inevitable.

I assisted in the funeral service on one occasion of a man who, had he lived one more week, he and his wife would have celebrated their sixty-sixth wedding anniversary. How wonderful that two people could learn to live together for such a long time. They had truly cultivated their love over the years to the degree that only death could separate them. That was exactly what God had planned in His design for marriage (See Matthew 19:4-6; I Corinthians 7:39). My wife and I have been married for fifty four years. I can truly say with all sincerity that I love her more now than I did when we were joined together in a simple but beautiful wedding ceremony on a very warm August night in 1955. Our love for one another has brought us closer together as we have faced many difficulties and disappointments as well as the good times along life’s way. There are scores of couples who will testify to the fact that marriage can be successful. And they should be examples worthy of emulation by the young couples who have just begun their journey in life together as husband and wife.

28 May 2009

Adversities, Afflictions & Attitudes

We are often overwhelmed with the adversities in life that are very difficult to accept and hard to understand. At the moment, it seems that all is loss, that life is not worth living and that our sorrow is too much to bear. No doubt, Job felt this way when he experienced the tragedies in his life. The problem is with our perception of matters. We deal more with the immediate and not the overall view of life. That which is seemingly against us at the present may, in fact, work out for our good. The Psalmist declared, “Before I was afflicted I went astray; But now I observe thy word.” Again he writes, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; That I may learn thy statutes” (Psalms 119:67, 71). The Psalmist had lived long enough beyond his traumatic experiences to grasp the significance of his sorrows. Not all men are able to perceive the silver lining amidst the clouds of despair. As finite beings, we are so limited in our knowledge and we often fail to grasp the ultimate reasons for our conflicts and sorrows in life. In contrast, the infinite Heavenly Father, who is from everlasting to everlasting, is able to see the panoramic scene; and, in His great providence, He is powerful enough to ultimately work out everything for our eternal welfare (Romans 8:28). It is a real challenge to our faith in God to seek the lessons to be learned from our failures, injuries and our losses in life. It isn’t necessary that we fully comprehend nor is it even possible that we always understand the tragedies that we may experience; but, it is important that we trust in God, knowing that He cares for us and that He can overcome evil with good. In all his grief, Job expressed himself in this manner, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him…” (Job 13:15 KJV).

Let us remember that afflictions, sicknesses, tragedies and death come to all men, saints and sinners. It is important therefore that the children of God understand that it is our acceptance of these experiences and our attitude toward them that distinguishes us from the people of the world who manifest no faith or trust in the providence of God. The unbeliever’s heart is often hardened when calamities come his way. In contrast, the believer’s heart is made more sensitive and responsive to God’s design and purpose in the perplexities of life. We are like small children in our understanding and we should place our trust in our Heavenly Father even as David when he wrote in Psalms 131: “Jehovah, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty; Neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too wonderful for me. Surely I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in Jehovah from this time forth and for evermore.” We all have no doubt heard the expression, “The same sun that melts ice, hardens clay.” Adversities, sorrows and heartaches in life will have different effects on various people. It depends largely on the recipient. In John 6: 66-69, after some hard sayings of Jesus we read, “Upon this many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Jesus said therefore unto the twelve, Would ye also go away? Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed and know that thou art the Holy one of God.” Disciples of Jesus who really trust in Him have no one else in whom they can find refuge and strength in the times of trouble in this life. So, whatever sorrows and afflictions may occur in life, it is to Jesus that we must go. He is the great physician and there is healing in His wings.

23 May 2009

Love Thyself

“And a second unto it is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:39). This statement made by our Lord was a partial answer to the question, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” The Savior had first replied “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:25-37). The thought of ‘loving oneself’ might seem to be rather selfish and arrogant; however, Jesus has taught us to love others in the manner we love ourselves. The apostle Paul wrote, “Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his own wife loveth himself” (Ephesians 5:28). But, the question might be raised as to the why a person should love himself/herself.

We learn in Genesis 1:27 that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created them.” While man’s physical body was formed of the dust of the earth, that part of man that pertains to his spirit, mind and soul, was made in the likeness of his creator. Man is not a product of a mere accident or by chance. The Great, August God, the Creator of heaven and earth was both the Designer and the Maker of man. Such knowledge caused the Psalmist to declare: “I will give thanks unto thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: Wonderful are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (Psalms 139:14). Furthermore, God loved us and demonstrated that love by the giving of his only Son for our sins (John 3:16,17). Jesus tasted “of death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9). Since God has made us and loved us, surely we ought to love ourselves.

We can have self-respect without conceit; concern for self without selfishness; and love for self that is void of vanity. We should not be possessed with an inferiority complex or an attitude of “I’m not worth anything.” Jesus taught that the worth of one soul is more than the whole world (Matthew 16:26). Each one is indeed important in the sight of the Almighty God.

True happiness in this life comes from accepting ourselves as God has made us, and, in responding to the grace and love of the Heavenly Father by giving ourselves totally to His Son, Jesus Christ.

01 May 2009

Motherhood

It is always good to remember a godly mother. Jesus while on the cross of shame and suffering thought of His mother and instructed John to care for her after His death (John 19:26, 27). One of the sweetest words in any language is ‘Mother’. A dictionary is not necessary to possess an understanding of such a meaningful term. Not all mothers are wives but they should be and not all wives are mother but God permitting they can be. One of the primary purposes of marriage is the propagating of the human race (Genesis 1:27). The role of motherhood should never be taken lightly nor should the status of being a mother be made light of in this modern age. There is no greater relation for a woman to sustain in this life than being a Christian mother.

Perhaps the crowning act of creation by the Lord God was the forming of woman from the side of man. God saw that it was not good for man to be alone thus He gave to him a help suitable for him. Adam later named this woman “Eve” because she was the “mother of all living” (Genesis 2:18-25; 3:20). The wise man taught that “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing” and that “a prudent wife is from Jehovah” (Proverbs 18:18; 19:14). In the bringing forth of a child the husband and wife truly become one flesh. There is the binding together of the two. Motherhood is the highest honor given to woman. No matter what else she may do in life it should be secondary to her being the kind of mother that God desires.

A mother is greatly responsible for the spiritual training of her children (Proverbs 22:6). Her influence is great for good or bad. Abraham Lincoln said of his mother, “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother”. An old Spanish proverb states that “An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy”. Most of us have heard the old saying that “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”. No doubt Queen Jezebel exerted a tremendous amount of evil influence on her husband Ahab and their wicked son Ahaziah (I Kings 16:30; 22:52, 53). Several years ago “Ma Barker” trained her sons to rob, steal and to kill. It was said that the infamous Nero had a murderess for a mother.

However the Bible is replete with examples of godly mothers who influenced their loved ones to live for the Lord. Jochebed, the mother of Moses, guided that young heart in the right way because when he became an adult, he “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to share ill treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Numbers 26:59; Hebrews 11:24, 25). No doubt students of the Bible know of the beautiful story of Hannah and how she received a son from the Lord. This wonderful woman had promised that she would give the child “unto the Lord all the days of his life.” Hannah named her son Samuel. This young boy, at a tender age, was carried to the house of God to be taught and trained by Eli the high priest of God (I Samuel 1). Samuel became one of the truly outstanding leaders in Israel , serving God and his people as prophet, priest and judge. If there were more Hannahs in the homes there would be more preachers in the pulpits.

Jedidah was the wife of the wicked king Amon but she was also the mother of the young and good Josiah (2 Kings 22:1)). In contrast to the wickedness of his father it is said of Josiah that “he did that which was right in the eyes of Jehovah, and walked in all the ways of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left (2 Kings 22:2). We must conclude that his good mother and perhaps Jeremiah the prophet exerted a godly influence upon Josiah. Then consider the mother John the Baptist, Elizabeth, who walked righteous before God, “walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1:6). We also learn that she was determined to name her son John (Luke1:13, 60) Mary, the mother of Jesus, was blessed greatly by having been chosen of God to give birth to the Son of God (Luke 1:42). Mary was a typical mother in many ways. For instance she treasured in her heart the things said about the baby Jesus and later the things which he said (Luke 2:19, 51). Finally we mention the grandmother and mother of Timothy. These two godly women, Lois and Eunice, had taught timothy from his earliest childhood “the sacred writings which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14, 15). These are some of the godly mothers mentioned in the Bible who are worthy of imitation by Christian mothers today.

A virtuous mother is industrious as is brought out by the passage of scripture in Proverbs 31:10-31. Certainly the daily chores of a mother are demanding. She is also considerate of the needs of others in her community. Dorcas was one who was “full of good works and alsmsdeeds” (Acts 9:36, 39). The widow who was to be enrolled by the church must have been “well reported of for good work…if she hath relieved the afflicted, if she hath diligently followed every good work” (I Timothy 5:10). Also the Christian mother and wife will be hospitable. Again from I Timothy 5:10, “…if she hath used hospitality to strangers, if she hath washed the saints feet.” From Hebrews 13:2, “Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” The Shunammite woman manifested a wonderful attitude of such hospitality in regards to the prophet Elisha as recorded in 2 Kings 4:8-37. This quality of hospitality makes the home pleasant where people to love to visit.

We need always to show our respect and honor to our mother whether they are living or have died (Ephesians 6:1, 2). We can do this by living for the Lord and being the proper influence for good among our peers.

DEDICATED TO MOTHERS IN THE HOMES
By Grace Crowell

So long as there are homes to which
Men turn—at close of day,
So long as there are homes where
Children are, and women stay,
If faith and love and loyalty are found
Across those sills,
A stricken nation can recover
From grievous ills.
So long as there are homes where
Fires burn, and there is bread,
So long as there are homes where
Lamps are lit---and prayers are said,
Though a people falter in darkness,
And nations grope,
With God himself back of these little homes,
We still have hope

17 April 2009

"I Never Give Up"

“So, because I hold a place in this ministry
and that because I have had
God’s mercy shown me, I never give up”
(2 Corinthians 4:1; Charles B. Williams Translation).

I use various translations in my daily Bible reading and as I was reading this passage from Williams translation, I was moved to write an article to encourage Christians never to give up on the Lord but to remain loyal and faithful while we live on this earth. The expression, “I never give up” is also found in verse 16 of 2 Corinthians 4. Other translations render these two verses that involve the other apostles in this manner: “We do not lose heart” (NASB & NKJV); “We faint not” (ASV); and, “That’s why we never give up” (CEV). The apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (NKJV). Steadfastness and perseverance is woefully lacking among many members of the church today. Seemingly it takes but a small amount of discouragement to cause a brother or sister to leave the Lord and His church. I am reminded of what the wise man wrote in Proverbs 24:10, “If you faint in the day of adversity, Your strength is small.” The fact is you never know the strength of a man until you know what it takes to discourage him. When Paul stated that “I never give up” or “We do not lose heart”, he truly meant it because he had been tested and tried and had been proven to be faithful to his Lord.

Please ponder carefully his description of how his faith had been tested. “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you” (2 Corinthians 4:8-12). Later in this epistle he wrote, “Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and day I have been in deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fasting often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).

In spite of all the adversities that he had to endure, he remained strong in his convictions, knowing that the time was coming when he would be with the Lord Jesus Christ whom he had served faithfully in this life. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed days by day. For our light affliction, which but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1). We should imitate this great man of faith and never despair to the extent that we would forsake our Lord (I Corinthians 11:1). If we keep our eyes on Jesus we will never falter along life’s uneasy pathway (Hebrews 12:1-4).

11 March 2009

The 'Tie' That Binds

Perhaps the first thought that comes to your mind will be the beautiful hymn “Blest Be the Tie” but the title of this article is not taken from this song. It might seem odd but the ‘tie’ that I have reference to is the one that I wear around my neck on occasions. You see, the person who taught me how to tie a ‘half-Windsor knot’ was an older brother in Christ who influenced me greatly when I was but a lad and a member of my home congregation in Summerville, Georgia.
Brother Julius Sprayberry was our song leader and he often taught a Bible class on Sunday morning and/or Wednesday night. It was Christian men like him and brother Charles Cochran, along with several other Christian men and women who influenced my life for good. The widows of brethren Sprayberry and Cochran (Thelma & Frances, respectively) still attend the South Commerce congregation in my hometown. When I was a boy growing up in this small church there was no ‘youth minister’ as such but the love and influence exerted upon the young people by the adult members guided us in the way of the Lord and gave us a real sense of belonging and security. We did not have a ‘full-time’ preacher for many years but the men of the congregation would lead us in our worship assemblies. In fact, one of the members, brother Roland Hemphill baptized me when I was a lad of thirteen. These brothers and sisters in Christ were ‘just regular’ members.
It is a beautiful thing to witness members of a congregation fulfilling the thoughts found in Ephesians 4:15, 16: “But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” Professionalism was generally unknown among our congregations sixty years ago. We now live in a mobile society and families seemingly are always on the move from one location to another one and often there is not a real sense of having a ‘home congregation’ by many families today.

Over fifty years have passed since I left my home congregation for college. But I retain precious memories of the time we met in the American Legion Hall in downtown Summerville and later in the brick building that was constructed on South Commerce Street . I have a warm feeling in my heart and often tears will fill my eyes when I think of so many of those members who have gone to be with the Lord. I possess a deep sense of gratitude and debt to those godly men and women who loved me and encouraged me to live for Jesus and to preach the gospel. There was a time when Virginia and I lived in a small trailer on the campus of Alabama Christian College when the church back home learned of our lack of money and they sent us a check in the amount of fifty dollars. It might as well have been a thousand dollars for it provided food for us to eat. It was the love and compassion that motivated the gift that has always endeared the members in my heart.
I have a real feeling of loyalty to my home congregation. I have returned for gospel meetings and it was always a joy to see ‘old friends’ and to reminisce of years past. I would love for all of our children and young people to have such fond memories of a ‘home congregation’ and to know of their roots in spiritual matters. We owe a great deal to the ‘ordinary’ members of the church who live faithfully and carry on the work in a local congregation.

I seldom tie my ‘tie’ without thinking of brother Sprayberry who taught me how to tie the knot and who influenced me to live for Jesus Christ. And when I think of him I also remember fondly my home congregation. I firmly believe that God, by His infinite grace will supply unto us the entrance “into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11) where there will never be a separation from those of His children we have known and loved in this life. Here are two stanzas from the beloved hymn that we often sing and that expresses my inward feelings.
BLESS BE THE TIEBlest be the tie that binds Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.
When we asunder part, It give us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart, And hope to meet again.

05 February 2009

This World Has Many Choices; Eternity Has Only Two

The title of this article is found in the words of a religious song that I have heard over the radio several times. It is a moving song. One that really makes you think. God made man in His image and one likeness is that man has the ability to make choices in life. Adam and Eve made the wrong one and introduced sin to the human family (Genesis 2 & 3; Romans 5:12). The Israelites were required to choose to serve or Baal or God (I Kings 18:20, 21). Jesus invites mankind to come to him and He will give rest to all who decide to do so (Matthew 11:28 - 30).

Our Lord also presents to us two gates to enter and two ways to travel in this life (Matthew 7:13, 14). The decision an individual makes will determine the direction one will travel in this life and eventually where one will be in eternity. In this life we all make decisions small and great from day to day. Some of our decisions will bring joy to our heart while others cause sadness and unpleasant consequences. The young couple that commits fornication often affects adversely the conscience of one and perhaps both parties. And sometimes a child is the result of such an immoral deed and shame is felt among members of both families. Pity the person who becomes addicted to some form of drugs and destroys both body and mind. In a moment of anger a life is taken and the guilty party has to endure the consequence by spending his life in prison.

On the other hand a young person gives his life to the Lord and commits his life to serving His Lord and Master. Life is enjoyed and the mornings of each day is received as being beautiful and appreciated. Love is found in the heart of Christian young lady and marriage follows after a courtship with someone she will spend a lifetime with as they rear their children in the way of the Lord. In spite of the hardships and challenges in life they encounter, happiness is found in living for Jesus Christ and serving one another and others. A young man decides that his true desire in life is to live in a foreign country and teach and train people to become productive citizens. As long as a person has the mental ability and breath resides in his body, decisions can be made. But eventually the time will come when the capability to decide will cease.

Eventually the spirit of man will take flight and the body dies (James 2:26). The spirit returns to God and the body goes back to dust from whence it came (Ecclesiastes 12:7). The power to choose where one will be in eternity is past. We will have no power to have control over matters. In life there is the ability to do things our way and to make decisions but not so in eternity. That has already been determined by the choice one made while living. In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus makes it very clear that now He is the only one who has the power to decide where one will be in eternity. To those who gave their lives to Jesus and served Him faithfully in life they will hear this sweet invitation, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (V. 34). But to the majority who decided not to believe in and serve the Lord Jesus Christ, these terrible words will be heard, “Depart me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (V.41).

My dear friend if you will confess Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God, He will confess you one day before His Father and the angels in heaven (Matthew 10:32, 33). It is my prayer that you will decide to confess Him now because if you do not, there is coming a day in which all mankind will confess Him but then it will be too late (Philippians 2: 9-11). When Jesus comes again and sits on the throne of His glory, judgment will have begun. Then it will the sheep or the goats, right or left, saved or lost, heaven or hell. Please make the choice to live for Jesus in this life if you have not already so in order that you may live with Him in eternity. This is my earnest plea and prayer for you.

07 January 2009

GPS ~ God's Plan of Salvation

I had thought that I might enjoy having one but I never dreamed that someone would give me a GPS! Much to my surprise, some of my children gave me a GPS for a Christmas present. A son took charge of getting the thing ready for me to use in my car. He put the address of a local business into the GPS and this lady’s voice instructed me when and where to turn in order to get to my destination as I looked at a map where I was to travel. In case you might not be familiar with this gadget, here is a brief definition: “The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite-based navigation system made up of a network of 24 satellites placed into orbit by the U.S. Department of Defense. GPS was originally intended for military applications, but in the 1980s, the government made the system available for civilian use. GPS works in any weather conditions, anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day.” Theoretically I should never get lost while traveling when I use my GPS.

In the beginning of man’s existence on earth he was in a safe place and in a perfect relationship with Jehovah God. In a sense man was not saved because he had never been in a lost condition. But he became estranged from his God and in a lost condition because of his disobedience to the commands given to him from God (Genesis 2:15-17; Isaiah 59:1, 2; Romans 5:12). However, in the darkest day of man’s existence in the beautiful Garden of Eden, God’s plan for man’s salvation is found in Genesis 3:15 when the “seed of woman” was mentioned. The “seed” is also referred to as being the “seed” of Abraham. The apostle Paul defined that “seed” as being Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:19, 16). The fact is, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God was referred to by John in Revelation 13:8 as being “slain from the foundation of the world.” The Lord God, in His infinite wisdom, foreknowledge and marvelous grace and love, planned aforetime to provide salvation for mankind through the death of His beloved Son (Hebrews 2:9; Ephesians 2:5, 8) John 3:16). Throughout the Old Testament there is the theme that ‘someone is coming’ and that being the promised Messiah who would bring salvation to the human race. Isaiah, the messianic prophet, prophesied hundreds of years before the coming of the Savior: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14); and His name was to be called Jesus “for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus, in answering Thomas who asked Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:5, 6). The road map that leads to salvation and to the Father is found in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the only way (Acts 4:12)! So He says to all who would be His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). The way that Jesus leads us is “narrow” and “difficult” but the reward is eternal life (NKJV, Matthew 7:13, 14). God has given us the perfect and complete directions in His Holy Word that will lead us to Jesus Christ and salvation (Psalms 119:105; John 6:44, 45; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17; 2 Peter 1:2-4).

God’s plan of salvation certainly involves man’s response. A person must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (John 8:24); repent of sins (Acts 17:30) and based upon a confession of faith in Christ, be immersed in His name for the remission of sins (Romans 10:9, 10; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). Following in the steps of the Savior we will never stray from the way that is infallibly safe and secure and that leads to “the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10, 11). May our attitude always be as found in the song, “Where He Leads Me I Will Follow”.