12 December 2011

One of the Greatest Fears of Parents: the Death of a Child

I write as a father. It was on Friday night, October 2, 1987, that I received a call from a dear Christian friend of mine informing me that his teenage daughter had been killed in a car wreck. He asked me if I would go with him to Montgomery so he could identify the body of his precious child. My wife and I hurried over to his house to try to comfort him, his wife and family in their deep despair and grief in the loss of their child that had been so full of life only a few hours earlier. It was about 2:00 a.m. by the time we reached the place where his daughter was being held since she died in the car wreck. Because I knew the teenager and loved her dearly, it was hard enough for me emotionally and I just couldn’t imagine how difficult it was for this grieving father to do what he had to do. In 1973, when my younger brother, age 35, was killed in another state while crossing a four lane highway, I had to go to the local funeral home in my hometown to identify him and I knew how difficult that was for me. But, the thought of having a child to be killed and to leave this world and into eternity, surely would be one of the greatest crosses to bear in this life.

In recent days we have learned of several young people being killed in automobile accidents. One was a precious and sweet Christian teenage girl who lived in Decatur, Alabama. I read an email of sympathy and in it the individual asked “Why, God, why?” And it is not necessarily wrong to ask “Why”. We are but as little children who might ask their parents the same when they did not understand the reason the hurt they were feeling in their hearts when something bad had happened to them. I could say to you that when God created the universe He set in order certain laws like gravity. When an evil person or an innocent child falls from a 10 story building, the results will be the same. And, when two vehicles traveling at certain speeds collide, serious injuries or deaths may occur. As being able to answer all the “whys”, I cannot. It becomes most difficult to deal with when bad things happen to good people, especially fine Christian young people.

David, in the depths of despair, asked, “Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do you hide in times of trouble” (Psalm 10:1)? Again he asked, “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? In his humanity, he asked these questions but he knew in his heart that the God of the universe cared for him and was with him. So he expressed his inner feelings in this manner, “But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:5, 6).

Then consider Job who “was blameless and upright and one who feared God and shunned evil”; and, “was the greatest of all the people of the East.” God asked Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” (Job 1:1, 3, 8). Yet he lost so much of his earthly possessions, had sores all over his body; but, to me, the greatest loss of all were the deaths of his children (Job 1:18, 19). How does a parent deal with such an overwhelming catastrophe? I am amazed that Job could have continued to live but he did. When you read the entire book you will find that Job did have questions that he presented to God but his example of endurance has given encouragement throughout the centuries to believers when tragedies strike their families and loved ones. Consider these responses of Job to his great grief: “Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” “But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” “But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 1:20, 21; 2:10; 23:10). To me, the outstanding statement that Job made in dealing with his lack of understanding of the “whys” relating to his losses is found in chapter 13 and in verse 15: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (KJV).

In this life we may never know all the answers to the “whys” as to the trials, tribulations, disappointments,
difficulties and deaths that occur in our lives but we can trust in Him who knows all things and can work out everything to our eternal welfare (Romans 8:28). May the following poem bless and strengthen the hearts of all parents who have lost their precious children to death.

God's Lent Child
“I’ll lend you, for a little while,
A child of mine,” God said,
“For you to love the while he lives,
And mourn for when he’s dead.
It may be six or seven years,
Or twenty-two or three;
But will you, ‘til I call him back,
Take care of him for me?

He’ll bring his charms to gladden you
And, should his stay be brief,
You’ll have his lovely memories
As a solace for your grief.
I cannot promise he will stay,
Since all from earth return;
But there are lessons taught below
I want this child to learn.

I’ve looked the whole world over
In search for teachers true;
And from the things that crowd life’s land
I have chosen you.
Now, will you give him all your love
Nor think the labor vain?
Nor hate me when I come to take
This lent child back again?

I fancied that I heard them say:
“Dear Lord, Thy will be done.
For all the joys Thy child will bring
The risk of grief we’ll run.
We’ll shelter him with tenderness,
We’ll love him while we may –
And for the happiness we’ve known
Forever grateful stay.
But should Thy Angel call for him
Much sooner than we’ve planned,
We’ll brave the bitter grief that comes
And try to understand.”

~Author unknown (attributed to Edgar Guest)

15 November 2011

"All Men Have Clay Feet"

I was a sophomore at Alabama Christian College when my teacher, Dr. Rex Turner, Sr, said to a classroom of young men who were planning to be preachers of the gospel of Christ that “All men have clay feet.” I thought to myself, what a profound saying, but what does it mean?” Now after decades of dealing with humanity, I have learned what he meant. Regardless of the status, prominence, position and power a person may have, many have proven that “all men have clay feet.” Kings, presidents, governors, senators, legislatures, mayors, yes, and even preachers have proven that all men have weaknesses and flaws in their character. How often have we heard of great leaders and influential persons who have been found guilty of acts of immorality and dishonesty and have brought shame and reproach on their families, friends and even their country. Now there is Joe Paterno, legendary football coach at Penn State University, a man whose reputation for some 60 years has permeated the world of athletics and has been known for his gentleman ways and fairness. A person we all respected and felt like it was an honor that our favorite football team could have the privilege of playing against him and his teams. How sad that his lengthy career should end in such a dishonorable fashion. But, coach Paterno, like the rest of us, has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt, that “all men have clay feet”.

The apostle Paul in writing to the church in Rome stated that “There is none righteous, no, not one”: and, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23). Even Paul had personal problems and he had to practice self-control, lest he should bring shame to the name of Jesus Christ. Read carefully what he wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:27: “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” The apostle of love, John, wrote concerning the children of God: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”; and, “If we say that we have not sinned; we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8, 10). In short, “all men have clay feet”. The only person who has lived on the earth and who did not have “clay feet” was the sinless Son of God, Jesus Christ. Oh yes, He was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 4:15). Jesus Christ died on Calvary and shed His precious blood that we all could be forgiven of our sins (Ephesians 1:7; John 3:16; Hebrews 2:9). To the sinners on Pentecost who became believers in Jesus as being the Christ, the apostle Peter instructed them to “repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:36-38). And Christians who falter along life’s way and sin, we have this blessed assurance: “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin”; and, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7, 9). Perfect people, we are not, but thanks be to God for His infinite grace, love and mercy, we can be forgiven.

20 October 2011

A Promise Fulfilled

My only sister and sibling remaining out of a family of six children born to Walter and Victoria Elliott, Avanelle Elliott Newman, died on July 14, 2011 at the age of 82. She would have been 83 had she lived until November 12. Avanelle was born in Dekalb County near Elliott’s Crossroad which is located about 3 miles south of the small town of Henagar, Alabama in the year of 1928. In 1933 my parents and three children moved to Trion, Georgia for work in the Riegel Glove Mill and Cotton Mill.
Before Avanelle died, she learned that her term insurance had expired so there were not sufficient funds for the burial expenses. Individual Christians of the Buckingham Road church of Christ in Garland, Texas where she was a member and some relatives gave the money needed to have her body cremated. Her daughter and only child, her three grandchildren, along with the congregation, had a memorial service for “Ninny” on Sunday, July 24. I shall always remember the compassion and love manifested toward my beloved sister by the members of the Buckingham Road congregation. After several weeks had past, I make arrangements for her remains to be sent to the Kirby Funeral Home in Henagar. On Thursday, October 6, Virginia and I drove up to Henagar and took possession of my sister’s remains. A cousin of mine, Wendell Elliott, of Rainsville, Alabama and I prepared a grave site where my sister’s remains would be buried. There was a space between the graves of our parents and our younger brother Frank who was killed in an accident at the age of 35 where my sister’s remains would eventually rest. Avanelle had always expressed a desire to be buried in the Unity Cemetery next to our parents and I promised her if it was possible, I would fulfill her wish.
Over the 50+ years that I have been preaching and speaking at funerals and at graveside services, I had never experienced such as this one. On a beautiful autumn Friday morning, October 9, 2011, I spoke in the presence of a few relatives and friends who had gathered in the quietness of the rural surroundings near an old church building. I spoke of Avanelle’s struggle to survive after she became a single mother with a teenage daughter to rear. The daughter earned a degree  from a university and became a nurse. When our mother died in 1988, Avanelle moved to the greater Dallas, Texas area where Vickie and her family lived. She existed only on a meager income but she survived. She suffered with emphysema for years and finally cancer took her life.

When most of the relatives and friends had left, I went to the car and removed the container that held my sister’s remains. I still think of the weight of the ashes in my hands that once was my dear sister. I knelt down beside the opening in the earth and with love in my heart and as gentle as I could, I placed the container in the small grave. I then took a shovel and began filling the opening with the dirt previously removed by my cousin and me. Needlessly to say, I had difficulty in controlling my emotions. We all made sure that the sod of grass that I had removed was situated just right and Virginia placed a vase of flowers that she had bought where the marker I ordered for my sister’s grave would eventually rest. When we drove away, my emotions were mixed but I felt like I had done what my sister desired and that was to be buried next to mother and dad. I had fulfilled my promise.

03 July 2011

Farmers, Faith, and the Father

Virginia and I had watched the growing of winter wheat beginning in late summer of 2010 until the spring of 2011. You see, when we are approaching our home we leave the city limits and pass through a portion of a farm that is located on both sides of County Road 12 or Powell Road. We then turn south for a short distance and once again we are in the city limits of Prattville, Alabama where we make our home. Presently we are observing how fast the soybeans and the purple hull peas are growing so rapidly since we have finally received some wonderful and much needed rain. Though I have never farmed on such a level, I have had gardens in most places where we have lived. In fact, in one town I had 30 long rows of various vegetables. One morning I pulled 300 hundred ears of sweet corn for Virginia to prepare and freeze for later consumption by our family of six. But I do enjoy watching the crops grow to maturity so the farmers can harvest them.
Farmers, bless their hearts, have to be people of great faith. Faith that in the future when the seeds are planted the sun will warm the earth and that the rains will fall to aid the seed to germinate and then to water the plants in order for them to grow until the harvest time. Patience in the ploughman is predicated upon faith, faith that the God of the universe will supply the needed environment for there to be a harvest. The biblical writer James wrote in James 5:7, “Therefore be patient, brethren unto the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.” Farming is certainly a calculated risk because if there is not enough moisture for the plant to grow, or, if there is too much water there will a disaster and not a harvest.

The writer James also declared in chapter 1 and verse 17 of his epistle, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” There are two points to consider from this passage. The first is that God the Father is the source of all of life’s blessings. We will agree that the needed ingredients for the harvest of the various crops are the warmth from the sun and the rain that falls upon the earth. Second, when God says something you can ‘bank’ on it. The Lord Jesus made this declaration as found in Matthew 5:45, “(F)or He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Thus all men are recipients of the physical blessings from the Heavenly Father, the Creator of the universe. Following the universal flood God made a promise when He said, “While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22).  There are times when we have cold days in the summer and hot days in the winter but the fact is that as long as the earth exists there will be the different seasons of the year for the planting and the harvest of the various crops by the famers.
While driving by the acres of winter wheat one day we saw a man combining the wheat and I told my wife that I needed to take pictures of that beautiful scene. When we arrived home I got my camera and back to the field I went. I parked my truck and started to walk near the combine to take a picture of it and when I did the operator stopped and motioned for me to come near and so I did. Then he pushed the door opened and asked me to join him. I was really surprised at his offer but I hurried to the machine and climbed up in the cab with the gentleman. This was my first ever ride in such a giant of farm machinery. After we introduced ourselves I began to take pictures. I could not help but think of this poem as we harvested the beautiful wheat:
“Back of the loaf is the snowy flour,
Back of the flour, the mill;
Back of the mill are the wheat and shower
And the sun and the Father’s will.”

That is the very reason why we all should express our gratitude to God before we eat our food like the apostle Paul did as recorded in Acts 27:35, “And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat.” He recognized that it was God who had blessed them with the food that they were about to eat.

How truly blessed we are in this land wherein we live. God has been good to us as a nation of people and we should never forget His grace in providing our freedom and the physical and material blessings we enjoy.

It was in the year of 1893 when Katherine Lee Bates, age 33, an English professor at Wellesley College made a train trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado to teach summer classes when she was inspired to write the following poem because of the beautiful scenery she saw while traveling. I just believe that she was greatly motivated to write certain lines in her poem when she saw the magnificent fields of wheat in the state of Kansas. Here is the first stanza of that poem:


O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

(Photos by RE)

18 June 2011

Godly Fathers

One of life’s greatest blessings and challenges for a man is fatherhood. This relationship involves the greatest joys and demands the best one has to give and often will include many sorrows. A godly father loves his wife and is loyal to his marital vows (Ephesians 5:25). He desires the best for his children. A father is industrious. He labors to provide for his family and the needs of others who lack the material things of life (I Timothy 5:8; Ephesians 4:28).

The greatest contribution a father can make to his family is leadership in spiritual matters. In every age, the head of the family has been required of God to provide the proper direction regarding religious training. Modern fathers are most likely to leave this responsibility to the wife and mother. However, Paul exhorted: “And you fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord’ (Ephesians 6:4). It is a tremendous requirement to make sure one’s children are taught of God but the rewards are everlasting. A Christian father may not be able to give very much materially to his children but the legacy of having a father who loved his family and the Lord surpasses everything else. The greatest inheritance a Christian father can leave is one that is rich in faith in God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We should never underestimate the love that a father possesses in his heart for his children. His emotions may not be as noticeable as the mother; yet, the feelings are just as deep. Most fathers would give their lives on behalf of their families. Their hearts are filled with deep gratitude when they witness their children succeeding in life. The Christian father rejoices greatly when his children obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. My father will be remembered for being a fine Christian gentleman. Also, the legacy of having a good name has meant more to me than all the riches of this world. It was the wise man of old who wrote: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, Loving favor rather than silver and gold” (Proverbs 22:1); and, “A good name is better than precious ointment…” (Ecclesiastes 7:1).

Godly fathers are rare in this modern society. But, we should always be thankful for the ones who are. Truly, you are blessed indeed if you have/had a Christian father who placed Christ first in his life. His influence in your life and even in the lives of his grandchildren will be felt for many years to come. Say, have you hugged your father recently?


Fathers are wonderful people
too little understood,
And we do not sing their praises
as often as we should...
For, somehow, Father seems to be
the man who pays the bills,
While Mother binds up little hurts
and nurses all our ills...
And Father struggles daily
to live up to "his image"
As protector and provider
and "hero of the scrimmage"...
And perhaps that is the reason
we sometimes get the notion
That Fathers are not subject
to the thing we call emotion,
But if you look inside Dad's heart,
where no one else can see,
You'll find he's sentimental
and as "soft" as he can be...
But he's too busy every day
in the grueling race of life,
He leaves the sentimental stuff
to his partner and his wife...
But Fathers are just wonderful
in a million different ways,
And they merit loving compliments
and accolades of praise,
For the only reason Dad aspires
to fortune and success
Is to make the family proud of him
and to bring them happiness...
And like Our Heavenly Father,
he's a guardian and a guide,
Someone that we can count on
to be always on our side.

~Helen Steiner Rice

23 May 2011

My Memories of Martin

My brother’s name was actually Walter Martin Elliott, named after our father, Walter Matthew. He was the first child of six born to Walter and Victoria Elliott. Martin was born on March 31, 1926 in the Elliott’s Crossroads community in Dekalb County, Alabama. He, along with two siblings, moved with my parents to Trion, Georgia, where they found work in the textile mills in early 1933. Later in 1941 the family made their home in Summerville, Georgia, where Martin grew into his teenage years. He was well known and liked by those who knew him. He worked for Hinton Logan, a Christian brother, in a local grocery store in downtown Summerville. I remember him having an automobile with a ‘rumble seat’ in the back of the car. Martin was over six feet tall and very handsome.
 He fell in love with a beautiful young lady from Fort Payne, Alabama, Catherine King. They eloped when he was eighteen years old and were married in the small community of Rising Fawn near Trenton, Georgia. Martin was soon drafted into the military and began serving in the U.S. Army in 1944. It was during the time when men were greatly needed in the war with Germany and Japan. The young men did not receive extensive training for combat duty. I remember that he took his basic training at Fort Blanding near Jacksonville, Florida for about three months and was soon shipped off to Europe.

Martin was a Private First Class and served in the 178 INFANTRY 95 DIVISION and was with a machine gun squadron. It was during the winter of 1944-45 that the American military forces were making advances into the northwestern part of Germany. During an intense battle near the town of Hamn, Germany, Martin was wounded and died soon afterward. He was at the age when young men and women were enrolling in colleges and/or going into the work force but our country needed our youth in combat to fight against the forces of the Nazi Regime. Martin celebrated his 19th birthday anniversary on March 31, 1945 and was killed six days later on April 5, approximately two months before Germany surrendered to the Allied Forces.

My father was at work at the cotton mill which was located in the southern part of the town of Summerville when he received the telegram that contained the dreaded news that his oldest son had been killed in action. He then walked the long distance to the house where we lived on West Washington Street to bring that news to us. That part of the road was unpaved and our rental house was located on the top of a ridge. I was standing on the front porch when I saw him coming up the hill and he shouted out the words I have never forgotten, “Martin has been killed.” I was almost 10 years old at the time and I remember well the over-whelming sorrow and grief my family experienced upon learning that terrible news, especially my parents. We had not received any ‘air mail’ letters from Martin for sometime and my parents were greatly concerned about his safety. Following the news of his death we received packages back that my mother had sent to him, some containing food items and I well remember that mother would not permit my younger brother and me to eat the sweets.

Martin’s wife had the choice of having his body brought back to the states for burial or to be buried in a military cemetery in Europe and she chose the latter and this decision nearly killed my parents, especially mother who suffered emotionally for several years as they never had any ‘closure’ relating to the death of their precious first born child. I remember how I believed that he had not been killed but perhaps captured or wounded and that one day he would come home.

Martin was buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery in the village of Margraten, 6 miles east of Maastricht. Though I have never seen his grave site, I have a niece who visited his grave; and a friend who attended worship at the Prattville church several years ago who was a native of Holland and while visiting relatives in Rotterdam she made a special trip to the cemetery where Martin is buried. She brought me the flag that was on his grave and here is a picture that she gave me.
I found a letter that was written to my parents from a fellow soldier and friend of my brother Martin but over time the name of that individual had been torn from the bottom of the page and so the writer’s identity remains unknown.
Following the death of our mother in 1988, the Purple Heart awarded to Martin was left in my possession. It is a constant reminder of the supreme sacrifices that were made during WWII, thousands of whom were mere teenagers. Though he has been dead since 1945, I have endeavored to keep the memory of my dear brother Martin and the sacrifice he made as a youth to help keep the world free from the oppression of the Nazi Regime in the hearts of our children.

21 April 2011

If Christ Be Not Raised

One of the cardinal doctrines of the New Testament is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There are 38 references to the resurrection of Jesus in the books of the New Testament. The resurrection of our Lord is mentioned at least 13 times in the book of Acts alone so it was the center of the preaching of the apostles and other inspired men. If a person believes in the resurrection of our Lord then all the other miracles listed in the Bible can be easily accepted as being true. Should a person deny the resurrection of Jesus then the other miracles would also be denied.

In the epistle to the “church of God which is at Corinth” the apostle Paul writes in detail concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The general resurrection at his second advent is predicated upon the fact that our Lord Himself was resurrected from the dead. To deny one is to deny both. In the time of Paul, the Greeks did not believe in the resurrection of the body. They felt like the spirit relieved of the body was actually a blessing and the human body would never be resurrected. Even among the Jews, there was a sect called the Sadducees that did not believe in the resurrection of the dead (Matthew 22:23). In the great resurrection chapter of I Corinthians 15, the apostle deals at length with this important subject.

Here are some fateful conclusions which must be accepted if Christ was not raised from the dead.

1. “OUR PREACHING IS VAIN” (V.14). The central theme of the apostolic message was the resurrection of Jesus; that is, “that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he arose again the third day according to the scriptures”. The first gospel sermon that was preached by the 12 apostles dealt with the death and resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:24, 30, 31).

2. “YOUR FAITH IS IN VAIN” (14, 17). Our faith in the deity of Christ rests largely upon His resurrection. If He had not risen, His words were false because He Himself predicted His resurrection. “Jesus answered and said unto them, destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. The Jews therefore said, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou raise it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remember that he spake this; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said"  (John 2:19-22; See also Luke 9:22; Matthew 12:40). IF Jesus was not raised from the dead he would have proven to be inferior to death and the grave. The redemptive work of God was accomplished through the resurrection of Jesus. It gave spiritual power to those who believed to live a life of holiness and to posses the belief in eternal life. Please observe that the term “vain” in verse 14 and in verse 17 are different. “Vain” in verse 14 means void and in verse 17 it means “devoid of force and truth.”

3. “WE ARE FOUND FALSE WITNESS OF CHRIST” (V. 15). The apostles were told by Jesus that they were to be his witnesses (Acts 1:8). If Christ was not raised, the apostles were false witnesses in stating that they had seen him after his resurrection. Either one of the following two things would have to be true. The apostles deceived themselves; or, they were some of the world’s greatest liars and imposters. To bear false witness against men is bad but to bear false witness concerning Christ is even worse.

4. “YE ARE YET IN YOUR SINS” (V.17). A dead redeemer who has not been raised is no redeemer at all! It is true that Jesus died for our sins but Paul wrote in Romans 5:10: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” Also, Jesus “was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:25). The resurrection of Jesus lies at the foundation of faith and forgiveness of sins, and without it a confession of faith in Jesus Christ is meaningless.

5. “THEY ALSO THAT HAVE FALLEN ASLEEP IN CHRIST HAVE PERISHED” (V.18). Their loved ones who had obeyed Christ and lived for him who had died were lost if Christ was not raised. It isn’t that they were annihilated but rather they were before God the Father without an Advocate and Mediator. There was no one to help them. They were in God’s presence with their sins still upon them if Christ be not raised. If Christ was not raised from the dead then the term “asleep in Jesus” is nothing but a mocking rhetoric, a worthless expression denoting no comfort whatsoever. But Jesus said, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that they have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28, 29; See also I Thessalonians 4:13-17, Emphasis, Mine, RE).

6. “IF WE HAVE ONLY HOPED IN CHRIST IN THIS LIFE, WE ARE OF ALL MEN MOST PITIABLE” (V.19). Believers in Christ are worse off than the unbeliever if Christ be not raised. Degrees of pitiableness are regulated by hope. Christians are most pitiable because of their willingness to suffer, to be mocked and to die because of their hope in Christ if he be not raised from the dead. The apostle Paul compared all his sufferings as “light afflictions” in comparison to that “eternal weight of glory” awaiting him in heaven (2 Corinthians 4:17, 18). But such sufferings would be in vain if Christ be not raised. However the Christian has this precious promise: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3;Emphasis, Mine, RE).

The apostle Paul writes of the resurrection of Jesus Christ as being an established fact in chapter 15:20-22. During the 40 days between the resurrection of Christ and his ascension back to heaven, he appeared 10 times to different ones beginning with his appearance to the women (“Mary Magdalene and the other Mary”, Matthew 18:1). In 1 Corinthians 15:5-9, Paul mentioned several of his appearances: “And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.” The evidence therefore is overwhelming that Jesus Christ did in fact arise from the grave.

The lives of his apostles were changed after his resurrection. Christianity began to spread with great rapidity throughout the Roman World. Even after nearly 2,000 years the resurrection of Jesus Christ is having a tremendous impact on the lives of countless men and women who believe in Him as being the divine Son of God. Paul, in his letter to the church in Rome wrote the following: “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Romans 6:17, 18). A “form” is a likeness and the “form” of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is found in Romans 6:1-4 when Paul wrote that the Christians had died to sin and were buried with their Lord in baptism and were raised to “walk in newness of life.”

The empty tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea is proof beyond any reasonable doubt that we serve a risen savior.

08 April 2011


Webster defines the word “encourage”: “to give courage, hope, or confidence to; embolden, hearten. To give support to; be favorable to; foster help.” In the epistles to the church in Thessalonica, the apostle Paul used the word “encourage” several times: “Therefore, when we could stand it no longer, we decided to remain alone in Athens and send Timothy, our brother who works with us for God in the gospel of the Messiah, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions, for which you are aware that we were destined” (1 Thess. 3:2, NIV). “Therefore encourage one another with these words” (4:18, ESV). ‘Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (5:11, ESV). “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (5:18, ESV). “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thess. 2:16, 17, NIV).
There are Christian men and women who have the God given talent to speak words of kindness and encouragement to their brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. Paul, in his epistle to church in Rome, exhorted those members to use that gift: “if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:8, NIV). We need more Christians like Barnabas whose name means “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36). To encourage is to “exhort”, that is, to build up and strengthen one another in the most holy faith. In Hebrews 3:13 we are admonished to encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13, NIV).

One of the reasons for us to encourage (exhort) one another is because Satan has a camouflaged weapon that really takes a toll on weary Christians and that is discouragement. If he cannot win you over through the lust of the flesh, the lust the eyes and the pride of life, he often uses this weapon to get members to give up the Lord and quit the church. Here are words of inspiration that are found 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.” One of the primary reasons for our worship assemblies is to exhort (encourage) one another. “(N)ot neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25, ESV). And we often do this very thing through our singing. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16). The following hymn, written by Frank M. Davis in 1892, is one that we have often sung as a source of encouragement. (You can click HERE to find out more about this Christian song writer.)

“Live for Jesus, O my brother, His disciple ever be; Render not to any other, What alone the Lord’s should be Live for Jesus, wandering sinner, Under Satan serve no more; Of the prize a winner Thou may’st be, when life is o’er. Live for Jesus in life’s morning; At the noontide hour be His, And at eve, when day is turning, And inherit endless bliss. Live for Jesus, live for Jesus, Give Him all thou hast to give; On the cross the world’s Redeemer Gave His life that thou mightst live.”

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24 March 2011

What a Difference Sixty-Six Years Make

Atomic Bomb Exploding in Nagasaki: A mushroom cloud from an atomic bomb rises over Nagasaki. The second atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki in August, 1945, in the last days of WWII shortly before the surrender of Japan.
(Photo Credit: Corbis)
I was only ten years old when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan on the dates of August 6 and August 9, l945, respectively. Later when I viewed the pictures of that awful looking mushroom cloud caused by an atomic bomb explosion, my young heart was filled with fear when I thought of the destructive power such a weapon possessed. It was during the years of 1941-1945 the American populace was indoctrinated by just how horrible the ‘Japs’ were in the many atrocities they committed during WW II, beginning with Pearl Harbor. Even the movie industry used propaganda in their movies to cause us to hate every person who was born in the country of Japan. Our government even incarcerated Japanese who were American citizens. I feel sure that the people in Japan were influenced greatly to believe that all Americans were evil. History has proven over the years that not all the citizens of Japan desired to engage the United States in warfare. As often is the case, those in authority, along with the military leadership pushed for the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
One of the sweetest and dearest Christian friends that Virginia and I have had in our lives was a gentle Japanese lady by the name of Kim Ellis. She stated that her father did not want to go to war but he was forced to enter the military service. I recalled how Kim related to us that they were notified the Americans were going to firebomb her city and how she was led to safety by a family friend. Following the bombing of her city, she never saw her loved ones again. She told us that she and others were starving to death until the American soldiers gave them food to eat.

Doug Andrews, who is a brother-in-law, had an aunt, Sarah Sheppard Andrews, who spent her adult life (1916-1961) as a missionary in the country of Japan. She lived there during WW II and was treated kindly by those who knew her and her many good works, along with her teaching the Bible to them. This Christian lady saw the other side, the good side, of the people in that country. She influenced many to give their lives to Jesus Christ. Her life as a child of God and her labors of love among the Japanese people are recorded in the book, VIRTUOUS SERVANT (Providence House Publishers, Franklin, TN).
{cover of book}
Presently the nation of Japan is suffering because of the earthquakes, tsunami and of all things, the fear of radiation from their nuclear plants. And it is the United States of American that has sent our military personnel to aid the citizens of this country. With all the moral decadence and ills found in our country, the United States remains the most benevolent nation on earth, in my opinion. Those who were once our enemies are now treated with compassion and kindness.

As long as the earth remains and evil men live, wars will be fought. There will always be the lust for power and wealth and a desire to control other countries and have dominion over the lives of individuals. The only true path to peace can be found in the Prince of Peace, the divine Son of God, Jesus Christ.

08 February 2011

He Is In Heaven

I received word that a good Christian friend of mine who was a member of a congregation where I had preached several years ago was in a hospital in critical condition, having suffered a series of strokes. The problem was at that time I did not know in which hospital he was a patient. As soon as I could I called his home telephone number hoping that some of the family members might be there. The person who answered the telephone was a granddaughter of my good friend. I asked, “Where is your grandfather?” In a very sweet loving voice and without a moment of hesitation she replied, “He is in heaven”. Of course it was then that I knew my brother in Jesus Christ had passed from this life into eternity to be in the care of our Heavenly Father. I thought to myself, what an impression this brother had made on his granddaughter that she would speak with such confidence concerning her grandfather’s eternal destiny.

Now I realize that only God knows for certain the eternal destiny of every person who dies. We do know that “the dust will return to the earth as it as, And the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). And the child of God does have this precious promise from our Lord Jesus Christ: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. “And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die…” (John 11:25, 26). The apostle John later wrote in 1 John 5:11-13: “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life…” This is the blessed assurance that a true believer in Christ, one who has been redeemed by the blood of our Lord and is a child of God has when he passes from this life into eternity. This young lady’s grandfather was a Christian and that is why she answered me with such confidence.

I habitually read the obituaries in the local and area newspapers because of my acquaintances of numerous friends and brethren. Often the writer will say that their loved one has gone to be with the Lord and similar statements regarding their relative or friend. This may or may not be true. God will be the judge and not man (Matthew 25:31-46). Some people die without believing and obeying Jesus Christ and some may be unfaithful members of the church but their survivors desire that they might all inherit eternal life. But stating such in an obituary would not make it so. Regardless of what might have been written or what some preacher might say at the funeral service regarding an individual will not have any effect on the deceased person’s eternal destiny. That has already been decided. And the person who died made that decision while he lived. Jesus Christ has given each individual a choice when He said: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there many who go in by it. “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (NKJV, Matthew 7:13, 14).

Think, my friends, what will your precious loved ones say when you pass from this life into eternity. Will there be any hope in their hearts that you will be with God? Or, will there only be sadness, sorrow and grief, knowing that you did not have the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and that your life was not lived for Him? While the mercy of God lingers, you have the time to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and that He died for you on Calvary’s cross. In true repentance submit to His will and be immersed for the remission of your sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:36-38). If, as a child of God, you have not been faithful, repent and confess your sins to your Heavenly Father (1 John 1:6-10). When death overtakes us, it is then too late for us to have anything to do with our eternal destiny.
The Clock of Life

The clock of life is wound but once
And no man has the power
To tell just where the hands will stop,
At late or early hour.

To lose one's wealth is sad indeed,
To lose one's health is more.
To lose one's soul is such a loss
As no man can restore.

The present only is our own.
Live, love, toil with a will.
Place no faith in 'tomorrow'
For the clock may then be still.

~ Robert H Smith