31 March 2012

"Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters"

The Preacher wrote in Ecclesiastes 11:1: “Cast your bread upon the waters, For you will find it after many days (NKJV).” Bible students generally agree that this verse, in the light of the immediate context is speaking of being a benevolent person who sees others in need and displaying a charitable attitude toward them, regardless of their moral status. It may be a gift of money, some food or a word of encouragement. Jesus Christ was the perfect example of this principle while He lived on this earth and He taught His disciples to profess the same attitude as found in the ‘sermon on the mount’ (Matthew 5-7). The apostle Paul later wrote: “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9, 10). Our Lord stressed that when we “do a charitable deed” we should not do such to be seen of men (Matthew 6:2-4); but, our heavenly Father knows when we give and the intent of our heart: “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Hebrews 6:10). To help a friend, a fellow Christian or a stranger without a desire and expectation of recognition is indeed rewarding.

The joy is in the giving and not in the recognition.
“Wouldst thou too narrowly inquire
Whither thy kindness goes!
Thy cake upon the water cast;
Whom it may feed who knows?
~ Goethe
But the Preacher further states: “For you will find it after many days.” The recipient of your kindness and generosity may, in fact, inform others of your deed. You may even be recognized in a public manner without your foreknowledge of the happening. This might occur soon or later. You just never know. “The seed sown in the morning of life may bear its harvest at once, or not till the evening of age. The man may reap at one and the same time the fruits of his earlier and later sowing, and may find that both are alike good” (Plumptre).

Please pardon the personal experience but I would like to share with you a blessing I received recently. I was in a large department store when I saw a lady who works where the ladies cosmetics are sold. I approached her and mentioned that I saw her at the funeral service of a mutual friend. She and the friend’s daughter had worked together in years past. Before I could say but a few words, she quickly stated that she knew who I was and how much she had appreciated my encouraging words to her when a niece had died many years ago. She mentioned that she thought her departed niece would be so concerned about her three small children, all under the age of seven. I had explained to her that her beloved niece would not be worrying about the care of her precious children and used scripture to explain why I said that. This kind lady informed me of some of the words of comfort I had spoken to her, especially that if this lady was indeed a Christian, she and the children could be united again in eternity. She then looked me squarely in the eyes and asked, “Do you remember this conversation” and I had to be honest and say “I do not”. But, she did and my words had brought comfort to her troubled soul. I asked her how old the children were presently. She began to brag on them as to how they were excelling in their studies in various universities. Now, here I am in the “evening of age” and the bread that I had cast upon the waters years before had returned to me. As I walked away, tears were beginning to dampen my eyes as I became emotional. I had truly received a blessing. My friends, you may never know in this life how  much good you may do when you cast your bread upon the waters; but, on the judgment day, the Judge of all of mankind will remind you that “you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:34-40).

22 March 2012

A Second Chance

I know personally of an unfortunate incident wherein some family members were mistakenly informed that a loved one had been found dead in her home. A daughter was nearly in shock by the time she reached the house and ran in crying, “Mother, Mother” and she was truly surprised to see her mother walking into the room to meet her. Confused about the emotional upheaval of her daughter, the mother in turn came to an unwarranted conclusion that someone else in the family had died. Eventually, the whole matter was solved. There were tears of sadness and joy. Tears of sadness in that it could have been true that the mother had died and tears of joy that the mother was alive.

I thought seriously concerning this bizarre incident and considered some important lessons that should be learned from this experience.

1. We must understand that life is very frail, brief and uncertain. Death can come so swiftly and when least expected (Hebrews 9:27; James 4:13, 14).

2. While we live on this side of eternity, we should all prepare ourselves to meet the Lord in the judgment (Hebrews 3:7, 15; Romans 14:12)

3. When the ‘grim reaper’ comes to call on us, it will then be too late to prepare for eternity (Hebrews 9:27).

4. At death, our eternity destiny is forever determined (Luke 19:26). We will be judged individually according to our abilities and opportunities and the word of God (2 Corinthians 5:10; John 12:48).

5. Sin will be not be overlooked by God in His divine justice that is not covered by the blood of His Son (Ephesians 1:7; I John 1:7-10).

6. We should be more concerned about the spiritual welfare of our loved ones and endeavor to lead them to Jesus like Andrew who brought his brother Simon to the Lord (John 1:40-42).

7. Though we are often discouraged in trying to get our unbelieving loved ones to live for Jesus, we should be steadfast and persistent in our efforts to influence them to obey the gospel.

8. We should give our ‘roses’ to others while we do have them with us. A word of encouragement, an expression of love and a gesture of good will should be done while we have the opportunity.

9. Whenever the spirit of a loved one has taken flight into a vast and never ending eternity, it is then too late for them to hear our expressions of kindness. The lifeless body of a family member lying in a coffin cannot hear what we are saying. Oh, how many times have we wished we had said some loving words to them while they were with us.

10. As you read this article, be assured that God, in His infinite mercy has permitted you another opportunity to obey and serve Him, if you have not already done so.

If you are not a Christian, you should study the word of God that you may become a believer in Christ (Romans 10:17; John 20:30). Also, God requires that all men repent of their sins (Acts 17:30, 31). In being submissive to the will of God, you should be baptized into Christ for the remission of your sins (Mark 16:15, 16; Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:26, 27). The Lord will add you to His spiritual body which is His church (Acts 2:47; Colossians 1:18). We have the blessed assurance that if we live faithfully in Christ, He will grant us an entrance to the “everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10, 11; Revelation 2:10; I John 5:11, 12).

09 March 2012

"Till the Storm Passes By"

On Friday, March 2, 2012, our country was ravaged by an outburst of terrible tornadoes that brought death and destruction in at least 13 states. One tornado in the state of Kentucky stayed on the ground for 95 miles! Two others stayed on the ground for some 40 miles. At least one town was completely destroyed. Some forty plus persons lost their lives in a moment of time when their houses and other buildings fell on them. One infant was found critically injured in a field and later we learned that she died, as well as the rest of her family. Hearts were broken and heads were bowed down with grief and sorrow as people saw the destruction of properties and learned of the loss of lives. You are made to feel so small and insignificant when you consider the onslaught of nature’s forces. My wife and I prepared the best we could by getting into closets when the warning came for our county but even then we did not feel secure. It is only when the clear signal was given did we feel relieved.

In life we all experience storms of various kinds. Sometimes like the tornadoes, they come upon us so suddenly that we are overwhelmed. Please excuse the personal experience but one of the greatest encounters with the storms of life was the death of my ‘baby brother’ who only 35 years of age when he was killed while walking across a four lane highway in the state of Pennsylvania. I received the news by telephone at 1:00 A.M. the following morning. The next day I had the responsibility of identifying his body. I sought refuge under the sheltering wings of my Heavenly Father. He was the second child of my mother to be killed. Her oldest was killed in WWII at the age of 19.

I have been with families who have lost loved ones and have witnessed the tremendous grief they suffered; especially do I remember when close friends lost their teenage daughter in an automobile accident. Then there is a friend who has been greatly affected with the ‘Lou Gehrig’ disease. In but a short time she has become almost completely helpless. Individuals as ‘wage earners’ for their families have lost their jobs because of the economical situation in our nation. People like widows who are on a limited income have to make decisions as to whether to fill their much needed medicine or to buy groceries. Almost daily we learn of families who have lost their loved ones in a foreign country as they serve in the military.

There is the constant threat of war between Israel and Iran that would involve our nation, along with others. Even our schools are not safe because of the real threat of some students bent on killing their classmates. Evil is ever present in our society. Slowly, but surely, some of our religious rights are being threatened by leaders on different levels of our government. We will all experience ‘storms of life’, especially if we live long enough that will bring us much sorrow and try our faith.

One of the basic reasons why I am thankful for the book of Psalm is because David suffered so much because of the ‘storms of life’. And that brings me to Psalm 57:1 which may have been written in a cave while he was hiding from King Saul who sought to kill him. Read carefully his words: “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, Until these calamities have passed by.”
As Christians many our hymns bring comfort and solace to our troubled hearts in the time of storms that we experience. In 1958, Mosie Lister wrote both the lyrics and music to this beautiful song. May it be of strength to you.

“Till the Storm Passes By”

In the dark of the midnight,
Have I oft hid my face;
While the storm howls above me,
And there's no hiding place;
'Mid the crash of the thunder,
Precious Lord, hear my cry;
"Keep me safe 'til the storm passes by."

Many times Satan whispers,
"There is no need to try;
For there's no end of sorrow,
There's no hope by and by";
But I know Thou art with me,
And tomorrow I'll rise;
Where the storms never darken the skies.

When the long night has ended,
And the storms come no more,
Let me stand in Thy presence.
On that bright, peaceful shore.
In that land where the tempest
Never comes, Lord may I
Dwell with Thee when the storm passes by.


'Til the storm passes over,
'Til the thunder sounds no more;
'Til the clouds roll forever from the sky,
Hold me fast, let me stand,
In the hollow of Thy hand;
Keep me safe 'til the storm passes by.

Hold me fast, Let me stand,
In the hollow of Thy hand;
Keep me safe 'til the storm passes by.
Till the storm passes by.

Postscript ~ You can click here to hear an acapella version of this beautiful hymn. You will need to scroll all the way to the bottom and turn off the background music for this blog in order to hear "Till the Storm Passes By". Thank you for your patience.