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“ABIDING HARD BY THE CROSS-SO SPARKS OF CALVARY CAN KINDLE OUR FIRE”.

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Mar 172019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “ABIDING HARD BY THE CROSS-SO SPARKS OF CALVARY CAN KINDLE OUR FIRE”.  BY:  Ron Woodrum

        Matthew 27:36 says “And sitting down they were watching Him there”. Mark 15:40 says, “The women were there looking from afar off and were looking on” . He lists them, “Mary Magdalene, Mary of James the least, and Joseph’s mother,( John calls her of Clopas), and Salome”. Luke says, in 23: 35 and 48-49 “And stood there the people beholding. “”And all the people that came together to that sight , beholding those things which were done, smote their breasts, and all his acquaintance, and the women that followed Him, stood afar off beholding these things”. John, some sixty years later, writes under inspiration and memory of the Holy Spirit’s guiding, “Now there stood by the Cross of Jesus, his Mother Mary, her sister Mary Cleopas, (his Aunt Mary), and Mary Magdalene” (Three Marys at the cross). The Gospel narratives seems to emphasize the impact this execution had on the spectators that day. Matthew puts the emphasis on the gurads who were “watching” the crucifixion-pointing to the fact that it was their duty to guide and guard each action that occurred. They were in a recling position. ( The word watch is “tereo” meaning to “watch over and guard”. But of course such guarding involved actively observing every movement, word, and reaction of the other bystanders. Mark points out, as the crucifixion neared the end, that the women there could take it no longer, and had moved away quite a distance, not able to bear it any longer. (“makrothen”-meaning a substantial distance yet still in sight of all occurring). Mark says, “They kept on watching from afar…and they were looking on”. The word looking is “thereo” from “theomai” meaning “to gaze, to partake of, to contemplate with analyzing” It is the root from which we get the word “theater”. It means “to take in with comprehension and understanding”-“a theater is where people concentrate on the meaning of an action or a performance” . Luke, likely writing the crucifixion from Mary’s eyewitness perspective, uses the same word-“thereo” but says that the crowds that had come together beheld, (thereo) the spectacle (Theorian). The emphasis indicates a “happening that is hard to view and understand with comprehension of meaning”. Viewing the spectacle of Calvary caused almost all of the spectators to beat their own breasts to dull the deep pain viewing this spectacle first hand, with their own eyes, had caused them to feel. Eyewitness viewing was that impactful. We all must wonder what it would have been like to have been, as John writes of the women, sixty years later in his memory, that they were “standing by the cross of Jesus”. Mel Gibson, in his Passion of the Christ, has done a theatrical spectacle quite realistic in order to transport us to their side. That is why we find it so hard to watch-so overwhelming. So crushing! In our own way we leave the presentation “beating our breasts” like they did, though maybe not literally. That kind of experience is critical for Christians-we must never forget that spectacle!

Charles Spurgeon, in his daily devotional, called Morning and Evening, writes, “Abide hard by the cross and search out the mystery of His wounds”. John R.W. Stott tells us why that is a valuable exercise for the believer. He says, “The cross is the blazing fire at which the flame of our love is kindled, but we have to get near enough for its sparks to fall on us!” That is why Jennie Evelyn Hussey wrote, in her hymn Lead Me To Calvary, sings “King of my life, I crown thee now;Thine shall the glory be; Lest I forget Thy Thorn-crowned brow; Lead me to Calvary.” Refrain reminds us-“Lest I forget Gethsemane; Lest I forget Thine agony; lest I forget Thy love for me; Lead me to Calvary”

Every year during this season it is a privilege, It is a mandate. It is an imperative given by God for your Pastor to stand in this pulpit and summon you to come to Calvary. To encourage you to “abide hard by the cross to search out that mystery!” To encourage you to come close enough to “let the sparks from the fire fall on your cold heart, to kindle a new passion in your heart” as you relive His ultimate sacrifice for you and I. Many famous painters have taken the time and their talents to preserve and portray for us the spectacle with such vividness that it enables us to answer the question of the old Spiritual-Where you there when they crucified my Lord? with a clear affirmative-yes! And as we revisit Golgotha annually it is my assignment to portray it in a worthy enough manner that your love for Him leads you to respond in kind. Rembrandt van Rijm, the great Dutch Rennaisance painter painted several scenes of the Crucifixion during the mid 1600’s. They tell us that he usually included himself in each, sometimes in a subtle way, and sometimes, as in the Raising of the Cross, in an explicit way, with him being the man with the Dutch painter’s beret, helping to raise the Cross of Christ! His way of saying, we were all there, we were all involved, we all played a part in His necessity to dying that death! As we visit there again, whether we come, like we did last Sunday, through the words of Israel King-Sweet Singer, and view the cross from the perspective of the Forgotten I AM, and view the cross from the perspective of the Son of God being Abandoned by the Father, Abhorred by the Fools, and Attacked by the Fiend, (Satan), written 1000 years before it occurred, or whether, like today we return to stand beside the cross of Jesus, seeing it portrayed by the Prophet of the Gospel of Love, Isaiah, as he paints the portrait of the Suffering Servant as He endures the Stripe of Sin to Redeem us. We must come to this Holy Ground, focus all of our heart, mind, soul, and person on what we see. Let me again share the words of Spurgeon, which he wrote of Psalm 22, but find application for Isaiah 53 as well. “For plaintive expressions uprising from unutterable depths of woe we may say of this Psalm, that there is none like it. It is a photograph of our Lord’s saddest hours. The record of his dying thoughts and words, the lachrymatory of his last tears…the memorial of his expiring joys. David and his afflictions may be here in a modified sense, but as the star is concealed by the light of the rising of the Sun, he who sees Jesus will probably neither see, nor care to see David. We should read reverently, pulling off our shoes from off our feet, as Moses did at the burning bush, for IF THERE BE HOLY GROUND ANYWHERE IN SCRIPTURE…IT IS THIS PSALM!” That is certainly true of Isaiah report of the Suffering Servant of Yahweh, the Suffering Messiah of Calvary, as he voluntarily yielded His soul as a Sacrifice to Satisfy the Stripe of Sin for a world of sinners! You and I so included that if we were the only ones he would have still paid the price in full!

In this perspective I want to give you three real life examples of what “abiding hard at the Cross can do for your heart today. The first comes from a famous Christian named Nicholas Ludwig Zinsendorf. On May 20, 1719 he, his brother Frederick, and a dear friend and tutor Herr Riederer entered the art gallery at Dusseldorf, Germany. They had been on a tour of Europe’s galleries to take in all the masterpieces. As he toured the gallery he was drawn to a particular painting-by Dominico Feti titled Ecce Homo (Behold the Man). It showed Jesus being presented by Pilate for Crucifixion, with a crown of thorns on his head. Underneath the artist had written the words “This I have done for you. What have you done for me?” He immediately thought of how he loved to read the Bible. How he loved to sing hymns. How much he did love the Lord. But somehow these things seemed so insignificant now. But his mind went back to Paedagogium in Halle. He thought about the time he had sat at the table listening to all that Bartholomaus Ziegenbaig, the missionary from India, had to say. Now there was a man who was doing something for Christ. “I will do more” he vowed as he stood in front of the painting. “My life will not be spent for myself”. He finished the rest of the gallery but could not get that painting out of his mind. It transformed his life. He founded a denomination called the Moravians that emphasized a passion heart-felt love for Christians that yielded their resources to sacrificial missionary work all over the world. Even the great John Wesley, upon spending a trip to America with them, credited them for showing him the way to true faith and salvation…”When feeling his heart strangely warmed”. “Sparks from the fire of the cross will do that for believers who are close enough to to have a new passion ignited in their heart for the Saviour.”

Another famous person found that same visit to that Gallery, that painting, impact her life as well. Francis Havergal while advancing her education in Dussseldorf, Germany saw the same painting. She saw Christ standing between Pilate and a crowd demanding death. Pilate says, “ecce homo” “behold the man” . That scene-Jesus whipped mercilessly, wearing a crown of thorns, purple robe of mockery. She copied the caption-“this I did for thee. What hast thou done for me?’ Back home when she relived that emotional moment at the gallery she wrote a poem of five stanzas each ending with a pointed challenge-“what have you done for me?” Reading it again, she thought it a poor poem and threw it in the fireplace. It did not burn. She retrieved them. Showed them to her father. He encouraged her to save them. Years later they became her most famous hymn. I Gave My Life For Thee. “I gave, I gave my life for thee; My precious blood I shed; That thou might ransomed be; and raised up from the dead; I gave my life for thee; what hast thou given for me?’

The third famous person who was impacted by “abiding hard at the cross” was Ernest Borgnine. He recounts the story in the March 1989 Guidepost testimony. While filming the movie Jesus of Nazareth, by Franco Zeffirelli, playing the role of the Centurion, back in 1976 with Anne Bancroft, and Olvia Hussey. The film was shot in January and February in Tunisia on the Mediterranean. He tells his story like this: ” It was cold, windy, and miserable. I was uncomfortable wearing the Roman soldier’s gear, especially the ponderous metal helmut. It made me pity those ancient soldiers. When it came to film my part at the cross, Robert Powell, who was playing Jesus, was given the day off. Zefferelli put a chalk mark on the cross and told me to ‘stare at it as if you were looking at Jesus’. I said, ‘okay’. I tried. I could not do it, I requested, ‘somebody read me the words of Jesus as He hung on the cross’. The director agreed to do that. I knew the words from my youth, and from reading for the part. I stared at the chalk mark and began to think like the centurion. That poor man up there, I thought. I met him. He healed my servant. He is the son of God. An unfortunate claim during these perilous times. But I know he is innocent of any crimes”. As Zefferelli read Jesus saying ‘father forgive them’ I felt so ashamed! I thought if you forgive me too, I will retire from soldiering and live out my life on that farm land outside of Rome. Then it happened! I no longer saw the chalk mark. I saw Jesus, on the cross! Not Robert Powell, the actor. Jesus! Pain-seared. sweat-stained. blood flowing from the crown. His face filled with compassion. He looked down at me, through tragic sorrowful eyes, with an expression of love beyond description. He cried out ‘it is finished’. ‘Into thy hands I commend my spirit’. His head slumped to one side! I knew he was dead. A terrible grief welled up inside of me. I became oblivious to the camera. I started sobbing uncontrollably, Zefferilli yelled, ‘Cut’. Olivia was crying. Anne Bancroft was crying, I wiped my eyes and looked again. Jesus was gone! That encounter changed my life. Made my faith real… Was a profound conversion experience. I have not been the same person since! As the centurion learned 2,000 years ago, you cannot encounter Jesus like that without being changed forever!” May that be your encounter today as we visit Mt. Calvary located in this text of Isaiah 52/53.

Two last quotes- J.I. Packer wrote, “The traveler through the Bible landscape misses his way as soon as he loses sight of hill called Mt. Calvary”. J. Knox Chambliss wrote, ” The Spirit does not take his pupils beyond the cross, BUT EVER MORE DEEPLY INTO IT!” May that be your worship experience today. “EVER MORE DEEPLY INTO HIS CROSS!”

 Posted by at 1:11 pm

“FOLLOWING THE LORD IN BAPTISM-KISSING THE SON”.

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Mar 102019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “FOLLOWING THE LORD IN BAPTISM-KISSING THE SON”. By:  Ron Woodrum

    One of the most controversial rock groups since the 1990’s is the rock group Korn. The Chicago Tribune described the group as “perverts, psychopaths, and paranoiacs”. Their heavy metal music and explicit lyrics had earned them quite a reputation-a bad one! But they made news March 3, 2005 when a close friend gave Korn’s lead guitarist Brian “Head” Welch a Bible. He was addicted to Xanax, and crystal meth, as well as alcohol. He was miserable. After reading portions of the Bible he announced that he had accepted The Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. He told MTV and an audience of 10,000 attendees at Valley Bible Fellowship of Bakersfield, California that this is “not about religion, it is not about this Church, it is not about me. It is about Jesus Christ and the Book Of Life. Everyone needs to be taught this. God went to a rock concert and found a hurting soul on stage. I am the happiest man in the world”. Exactly one week later, Welch left skeptics without any doubt, when he and 20 others flew to Israel to follow the Lord Jesus Christ in baptism in the Jordan River. On March 10, 2005 he and 20 white-robed pilgrims were baptized by the Pastor Ron Vetti, of the Valley Bible Fellowship in the Jordan River, confessing Jesus publically as Savior to the entire world. Welch said, “I am going home a totally different and new man”. He followed up his baptism with a new album and a new autobiography both entitled Save Me from Myself. Welch’s actions raise a lot of questions. Why go to Israel to be baptized in the Jordan River? Why be baptized at all? What does it mean to follow the Lord in baptism? Most people both in and outside the Church today see baptism as much an enigma as John the Baptist did of Jesus’ baptism over 2,000 years ago. As we preach this series on “following Jesus” we need to follow him to the Jordan River. We need to ask and answer why He was baptized by John the Baptist. What did that act that he initiated His public ministry with mean? For Him? For us? What does it mean for us to “follow the Lord in baptism?”

According to two N.T. passages Jesus’ baptism was to be an inauguration of the public ministry He was embarking on. According to Matthew 3:13-17, while John the Baptist was baptizing a steady stream of Jewish converts who were showing repentance and readiness for the coming Messiah, Jesus Himself showed up and requested that John baptize Him. John kept on refusing to do so, declaring his own unworthiness, and need to be baptized by Jesus the Messiah. Jesus convinced him to allow it at this time “to fulfill all righteousness”. John agreed. As he immersed Jesus in the Jordan River, he heard a voice from heaven declaring, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased”, and he saw “the Spirit of God descending upon Him in the form of a dove” anointing Him for His mission and ministry as Messiah. Then as you turn to John 1:31-34 we hear John the Baptist saying, “I knew Him not; but so that He might be made manifest to all Israel I came baptizing with water…and I saw the Spirit descending from heaven, in the form of a dove, and abode on Him. I knew Him not…but He who sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, ‘upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, is the same that will baptize with the Holy Spirit’. I saw and bore witness this one is the Son of God”. Those two narratives describe an event that was a fulfillment of two prophecies about the Messiah. One is Psalm 2. In that Psalm we read about the Son of God who will come to rule and judge the rebellious and mutinous nations. God says, “This is my beloved Son, this day I have begotten thee…and I will give you the nations for your inheritance”. (Psalm 2:1). But Jesus’ baptism was fully explained in Isaiah 42:1 “Behold my Servant, whom I uphold, in whom my soul delighteth, (equivalent in Hebrew to the Greek ‘in whom I am well pleased’.), and will give thee to the covenant people, and for a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to set free prisoners from prison and the darkness of the prison house.” As Jesus began His ministry He submitted Himself to a ceremony that symbolized and pictured what His mission would be as the Suffering Servant Messiah. He would not just be the King, Son of the Most High, come to rule the nations. He would be Suffering Servant come to give His life as predicted of Him in Isaiah 53. All of that was pictured in His baptism. The Spirit would come on Him and empower Him to live a righteous life, and sacrifice Himself as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. Those who would trust Him to be the one to take away their sins, by His sacrifice, would publically declare it by following His example, and submit to water baptism, as He did. By that they would foreshadow what His sacrifice would do for them. His Spirit baptism would put them in union with Him, and His Spirit would enable them to die to sin, self, and the world, and be raised spiritually to walk in newness of life. His baptism prophesied His mission. Their baptism prophesied their deliverance from sin. Psalm 2 ends by giving all the command to “kiss the Son and give evidence to their faith and trust in Him” to be the Savior and King He came to be. Baptism is the public demonstration where we can “kiss the Son” and declare our faith in Him. Through our union with Him we have died to sin and self and risen to walk in Him.  

Having John baptize Him was Jesus’ “Crossing the Rubicon”. On January 10, 49 B.C. Julius Caesar, with all of his troops, was sitting on the banks of the Rubicon River that separated Italy from Gaul. For him to cross into Italy with his troops was to break the law of Imperium, which forbid any unauthorized generals and troops from entering the country as a military unit. To do so was to be penalized by death for the general and the troops. That night Caesar and his troops slept on the banks of the Rubicon. The next morning, stating he had been given a word from god, he uttered these words “alea iacta est” -“the die is cast” and he and his troops “crossed the Rubicon”. That phrase has become an idiom for going to the “point of no return”. It has come to mean “make a choice and face whatever consequences it brings“-no turning back. That is what Jesus did in submitting to John’s baptism. He was committing Himself to all it would be to “fulfill at righteousness” as the Suffering Servant Messiah and as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. All of that mission and ministry would be pictured in His baptism. Entering the water, lying down in the water, being buried totally in the water, and rising up out of the water. There is the vivid panorama of what it would take to “fulfill all righteousness” in obedience to the will of His Father. He would be empowered by the Spirit to live under the law, to redeem those who had broken the law. He would, as Hebrews says, “offer Himself as a sacrifice through the power of the Eternal Spirit, to be the perfect one-time sacrifice, to redeem all those who put their trust in Him. (Heb.9:14).

Jesus then gave His Church the commission to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever He commanded. (Matt. 28:19-20). That gave all who would hear the good news of the Gospel, illustrated by Jesus Death, Burial, and Resurrection, pictured in His baptism, the opportunity to follow Him in baptism, and thereby trust His redemptive work, which would unite them with Him, in His Death and Resurrection, and Spirit’s filling and anointing, enabling them to die to the old life, and be raised to walk in newness of life. (See Rom. 6:14). Our baptism, picturing the baptism of the Spirit, is our “Crossing the Rubicon“. It is us choosing to “cast the die”. It is the linking of our faith and trust with His redemptive work, resulting in a transforming salvation. C.S. Lewis talked about the miracle of this work of Christ in our lives. He wrote, “The Christian way is different: harder and easier. Christ says, ‘Give me All. I don’t so much want your time and so much your money and so much your work: I want you! I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down…Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked-the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: My own shall become yours’ “That is what happens when we follow the Lord in baptism, and begin living out the actuality of the Sprit’s baptism. That is what God wanted when He commanded in Psalm 2-“kiss the Son, lest He be angry with you!” Paint a picture of Him, by your submission to Him, and display His beauty for all the world to see.

Charles Spurgeon tells the story about an artist who was a contemporary with him, though he had never met him. His name was Gustave Dore. One day when Gustave Dore was working on a painting of Christ, a lady friend came to visit his studio and began gazing intently at the face, almost completed. As she was gazing, the artist retired from the picture to a corner of the room, and looked at the face of his friend, as she looked intently on the face on the canvas. Turning around she asked, “Why do you look at me so anxiously?” “I wanted to watch your face as you looked at His face-I think you like it”, He insisted. “Yes, I do”, she told him. “Do you want to know what I was thinking? -I was thinking that you could never paint the face of Christ like you have unless you loved Him!” “Do I love Him?’ Dore asked in agitation. “I trust I do-and that sincerely; but as I love Him more, I shall paint Him better!” Baptism, and the new life that follows, is the opportunity to show our love for Him by painting His portrait on the canvass of our lives for the world to see how our faith, in His redemptive work, is the only hope we have of fulfilling all righteousness, and restoring the glory God intended for us in the beginning. “Kiss the Son”

 Posted by at 1:04 pm

“Look to that precious standard of life…never to be wrested from our hands”.

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Mar 032019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Look to that precious standard of life…never to be wrested from our hands”.       By:  Ron Woodrum

One of the greatest preachers of all human history was Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Each Sunday his sermons were telegraphed and printed to most of the major cities of the world. They were printed and passed out like gospel tracts, which indeed they were. Unnumbered millions came to faith through his preaching and through the printing of those sermons. His sermons always seemed to center on the Cross of Jesus Christ. No matter from what passage of Scripture he took as his text he always managed to travel from it to the place of the cross. When someone asked him why God honored his preaching he said, “I simply announce my text and make a bee-line for the cross!” He clearly understood the words of Jesus who had said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all the world to myself” (John 12:32). Why did he understand that message so much? Because he had indeed experienced the truth of it. His conversion experience happened one Sunday morning when he was only 14 years old. He was walking to his father’s Church for services when a snowstorm hindered him from getting there. He turned in to a little Primitive Methodist Church for worship. The pastor was snowed in and could not make it. A layman led the service that was attended by only 14 people. Young Spurgeon made it 15! Listen to his testimony of that morning in his own words:

“I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair until now had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm, one Sunday morning, while I was going to a certain place of worship. When I could go no further, I turned down a side street, and I came to a little Primitive Methodist Chapel. In that chapel there may have been a dozen or fifteen people. I had heard of Primitive Methodists, how they sang so loudly they made people’s heads ache; But that did not matter to me. I wanted to know how I might be saved, and if they could tell me that, I did not care how much they made my head ache. The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed up, I suppose. At last, a very thin looking man-a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up to the pulpit to preach. Now it is well that preachers should be instructed, but this man was really stupid. He was obliged to stick to the text, for the simple reason that he had little else that he had to say. The text was-LOOK UNTO ME, AND BE YE SAVED, ALL THE ENDS OF THE EARTH. He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter. There was, I thought, a glimpse of hope for me in that text. The preacher began thus-‘My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says-LOOK. Now looking don’t take a great deal of pains. It ain’t liftin your foot or your finger; it is just LOOK! Well a man needn’t go to college to LOOK. You may be the biggest fool, yet you can LOOK. A man needn’t be worth a thousand a year to LOOK. Anyone can LOOK. Even a child can LOOK. The text says LOOK UNTO ME.- (he said in broad ESSEX accent) many of ye are looking to yourselves, but it’s no use looking there! You will never find comfort for your souls there! Some look to God the Father. No, look to Him by and by. Jesus says, LOOK UNTO ME! Some say we must wait for the Spirit’s workin’. You have no business with that just now. LOOK TO CHRIST! The text says LOOK UNTO ME.’ Then the good man followed up his text in this way-‘Look unto me I am sweatin’ great drops of blood. Look unto me I am hanging on the Cross. Look unto me I am dead and buried. Look unto me I rise again. Look unto me I ascend into heaven. Look unto me I am sittin’ at the Father’s right hand. O poor sinner look unto me. Look unto me.’

When he had gone to about that length, and had managed to spin out ten minutes or so, he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I dare say, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger. Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart, he said, ‘young man you look miserable’. Well I did. But I had not been accustomed to have remarks made about it from the pulpit on my personal appearance ever before. However, it was a good blow that struck right home. He continued, ‘and you will always be miserable-miserable in life-miserable in death-if you don’t obey my text; but if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved!’ Then, lifting his hands, he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist could do, ‘Young man, look to Jesus Christ! LOOK…LOOK…LOOK! YOU HAVE NOTHING TO DO BUT TO LOOK AND LIVE!’ I saw at once the way of salvation. I know not what else he said-I did not take much notice of it. I was so possessed with that one thought. Like the brazen serpent that was lifted up in the wilderness, the people only looked and they were healed. So, it was with me. I had been waiting to do fifty things. But when I heard that word LOOK—what a charming word it seemed to me! Oh, I looked until I could have almost looked my eyes away. There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness rolled away, at that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen in an instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, (enough to make a man’s head ache!) of the precious blood of Christ and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. Oh, that somebody had told me this before…Trust Christ and you shall be saved! Yet it was, no doubt, all wisely ordered and now I can say–

Ever since by faith I saw the stream

       Thy flowing wounds supply

    Redeeming love has been my theme

        And shall be til I die”

A little over one hundred years later, another famous British journalist saw the same Cross. Famed journalist Malcom Muggeridge told how he had resisted the message of the cross all his life, until one day it drew him to surrender to the Christ of the Cross and it became a treasure to wear over his heart, and a standard of salvation never to be wrested out of his hands. He wrote: “From time to time I would catch a glimpse of a cross. Not necessarily a crucifix. Maybe two pieces of wood accidently nailed together…or a telegraph pole for instance—and suddenly my heart would stand still. In an instinctive and intuitive way, I understood that it represented something more important, more tumultuous, more passionate, than all other good causes, however admirable they might be. It was, I know, an obsessive interest…I might fasten bits of wood together myself, or doodle it when I was writing. This symbol, which was considered derisory in my home, yet also the focus of inconceivable hopes and desires…as I remember this, a sense of my own failure lies leadenly upon me. Long before I did…I should have worn it over my heart; carried it, a precious standard never to be wrested from my hands…it should have been my cult, my uniform, my language, my life. I shall have no excuse. I cannot say I didn’t know earlier. I knew from the beginning and turned away all those years”

But like Spurgeon, after embracing the Christ of that Cross. After looking only to Him and that finished work on the cross for salvation. It did, as it should all of us, become our cult, our uniform, our language, our life, never to be wrest from our hands or hearts. Calvary calls…..LOOK AND BE SAVED TO THE UTTERMOST!

 Posted by at 1:27 pm

“Rough Winds of Persecution Transformed into Winds of Propagation!”

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Feb 242019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Rough Winds of Persecution Transformed into Winds of Propagation!” By:  Ron Woodrum

  Thomas Carlyle used to say that the easy, chatty optimism of Ralph Waldo Emerson maddened him. In his opinion “no really dark shadow had ever fallen across Emerson’s sheltered life”. He said that Emerson “seemed like a man who, standing well back from the least touch of spray from the storm, throws chatty observations about the beauty of the weather to a poor man battling for his life in huge waves that are beating upon him and threatening to sweep him away!” Perhaps Carlyle was right about Emerson, we cannot say. But personal experience in the marketplace of human existence tells us all that somewhere between sunrise and sunset, everyone will feel the harsh winds of opposition upon our faces. What is true of individuals is also true of the Church, at any given time in history. The Church had seen some opposition during the days of its infancy. If the world hated their Lord, they too would feel that animosity at some time or another, in some way or another. Jesus had promised them that. But during the early days, recorded in Luke’s narrative in the Book of Acts, those winds did not blow harshly at first. We read of the Church, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, penetrating the Graeco-Roman world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, turning it upside down, taking the Church from Jerusalem to Rome in only two decades! But as the Children of Israel found out-things can change in a New York minute. When a Pharaoh that knew not Joseph came to power, their position went from privileged to persecuted immediately. So with the Church. Beginning with Emperor Claudius and running through Diocletian, the Church faced the ever-increasing winds of persecution blowing their way all throughout the Roman Empire. This persecution would become so intense that it threatened the very existence of the Church. Many then, and now, question why the Sovereign God would allow such a thing to happen to His faithful people.

Frank W. Boreham, in his book Cliffs of Opal, explains the necessity of such suffering in order to impact the Roman world of that day with an even greater impact! He writes, “If Jesus, the Son of God, had died His bitter death on Calvary’s tree, and left it at that, would that have saved the world? Of course not! The world at large would have never heard of it. The tragic incident would have passed into oblivion within a year or two. Just another political execution off in a distant Roman Province. In order for that redeeming sacrifice might be made effective, and the world be saved by means of it, it was necessary for the Apostles to suffer and die proclaiming it, for the martyrs to lay down their lives defending it, for missionaries like Xavier, and Livingstone, and Patterson, and Williams, and Chalmers to seal it with their blood. That would be their testimony to its virtue. Every death on a foreign shore, every tear shed for the Gospel’s sake, every jibe or sneer patiently endured out of love for Christ, is an augmentation of the awful tragedy of Golgotha. It is the wonder of wonders that He who died upon that bitter tree to redeem mankind associates each of us with Himself in that Divine and sacrificial work!” A.T. Pierson, in his book The Bible and The Spiritual Life, explains how that God used such sacrifice and suffering on the part of His saints to impact them, and the world that witnessed their suffering, to reflect the glory and grace of their Crucified Savior to the World. He wrote, “God allows it in order to perfect His saints. He puts His precious metal into His crucible. But He watches it. His love is His thermometer, and He marks the exact degree of heat, not one instant’s unnecessary pang will He permit; as soon as the dross is released and He sees Himself reflected in them, the trial immediately ceases!” His martyrs all testified to His sustaining grace being sufficient for the moment. What an impact their witness had.

Soon the road of persecution led to the newly built Colosseum. It became the center of attention for the public display of The Sacrifice of Christ being magnified through the testimonies and deaths of His martyrs. Vance Havner, in his book Hearts Aflame, pays a fitting tribute to these courageous Christians. He writes, “If we had sat in the grandstands amidst the grandeur that was Rome we might have been deceived. For it was not the howling mob in the Colosseum that determined the course of history. Underground in the catacombs another force was at work. A handful of men and women who worshipped another King called Jesus, who had died and risen, and was coming back someday-here was the beginning of the Empire within the Empire, the Christians beneath the Caesars! They crept along the subterranean passageways and tunnels, among the tombs and caverns, hunted and persecuted as the scum of the earth. If we would have prowled the gloomy depths we might have come upon little companies singing, listening to the Gospel message, observing the Lord’s Supper. The verdict might have been this little group doesn’t stand a chance! But the Christian Underground upset the Caesars above ground. The Catacombs overcame the Colosseum…and put it out of business! That fellowship who loved Jesus more than they loved their own lives, who were in the world, but not of it, whose blood was the seed of the Church…were on fire with the passion that Roman swords could not kill, nor waters of the Mediterranean Sea could drown, nor the fierce flames of fire could destroy nor silence. Their blood was spilled so freely and often in that arena that when a traveler asked if he might take a relic with him, was told take a handful of sand from the Colosseum. It is all martyrs!”

Need we say more? That kind of devotion withstands the howling winds of persecution and shifts the direction back toward its source, transforming them into winds of propagation! Let those winds blow…world wide!

 Posted by at 1:57 pm

“THE DISMAL COMPANY…ONLY TO SELF TRUE!”

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Feb 172019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “THE DISMAL COMPANY…ONLY TO SELF TRUE!”  By:  Ron Woodrum

      There is an unusual quote, from a very unusual source, that God recently brought to my attention that describes our world today, both those inside and outside the Church, quite accurately. It describes our most destructive attitude that perpetrates and perpetuates our dilemma. It comes from Dante Alighieri. Who in the world is that Pastor? That is the full name of the famous Dante of Dante’s Inferno: The Divine Comedy. Few of us read his work anymore that describes the medieval view of Hell. While being given a tour of Hell Dante hears sighing, crying weeping, wailing and railing. He writes, “At first I wept at such wailing and lamentations…shrieks, yells, and groans. Whereupon I asked, ‘Master what is this I hear?’ ‘Who can these people be, so distraught with grief?’ He answered, ‘THE DISMAL COMPANY, OH WRETCHED SPIRITS THAT FIND THEIR RECOMPENSE DUE, WHOSE LIVES KNEW NEITHER PRAISE NOR INFAMY…WHO AGAINST GOD REBELLED NOT, NOR TO HIM WERE FAITHFUL, BUT ONLY TO SELF WERE TRUE!’ “They tell us the road to hell is paved with “good intentions”. The residence of hell is filled with “great regret”. The residents of hell will be eternally quoting the words of John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem-“For of all sad words of tongue or pen-the saddest are it might have been”. But hell is not the only place of regret. When we all get to heaven, and look back over the opportunities of our lives, that poem will also express the feelings of many of God’s saints too.

The great tragedy of our time is that we have chosen who and what will come first in our lives, and it is not God! It is ourselves. We come first. We live for ourselves. We are true to ourselves. We want to include God in our lives, on our terms. We have not rebelled against Him that much, but we have not been sold-out faithful to Him either. Our lives do not deserve praise neither infamy. What a tragedy! If we do not take specific action to put God first in our lives -the kind of action that Rick Warren made clear and popular in his book The Purpose Driven Life-we may find our lives lived only for ourselves, and making no impact for eternity. I am fond of a description from a nineteenth-century writer Van Wyck Brooks, who described his futile life, in his autobiography by saying that as he surveyed his life he concluded that his efforts had been sown in an environment where they could not grow and not even a furrow remained from where he had ploughed. His words are so descriptive of futility-it is as if he had been “ploughing the sea!” The great Irish Poet W. B. Yeats wrote in a similar vein in his memoir Reveries: “All life, weighed in the scale of my own life seems a preparation for something that never happens!” That is the tragedy of most of our Christian lives. We intend to put God first; to live a surrendered life; to witness and win others to Christ; to make an impact for Him; to do things that will be worthy of Him saying to us in that day-“Well done thou good and faithful servant“. But we have been “ploughing the sea” and can’t even retrace where we’ve been. Our lives…always preparing for impact for Jesus…but “nothing ever happens!”

Greg Levoy calls this the “common cold of the soul”. He says our lives are filled with “Sinful patterns of behavior that never get confronted and changed. Abilities and gifts that never get cultivated and deployed–until weeks become months, and months turn into years, and one day you’re looking back on a life of deep intimate, gut-wrenching honest conversations you never had; great bold prayers you never prayed; exhilarating risks you never took; sacrificial gifts you never gave; lives you never touched; and you’re sitting in a recliner with a shriveled soul and forgotten dreams, and you realize there was a world of desperate need, and a great God calling you to be part of something bigger than yourself-you see the person you could have become but did not; You never followed your calling; you never got out of the boat; if you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat. Most of us have never gotten out of the boat!”

Garrison Keillor, in a story called “A Day in the Life of Clarence Bunsen” tells of an older man who realizes that life has slipped away and his life has missed something. He goes to see Father Emil for advice and comes away empty. He goes back to a hill that overlooks his childhood hang-out at Lake Woebegone and watches kids playing and reflects on his life. He thinks to himself, “I wish I could be like that. I just seem to go through life with my eyes closed and my ears shut. People talk to me, and I don’t seem to hear them. Whole days go by, and I can’t remember what happened. The woman I’ve lived with for thirty-six years, if you asked me to describe her, I’d have to stop and think about it. It’s like I’ve lived half my life waiting for my life to begin, thinking it’s off somewhere in the future, and now I am thinking about death all the time. It’s time to live, time to wake up and do something!” Henry David Thoreau summarized what Clarence Bunsen might have been trying to say, when he said, “I did not wish to live what was not life…I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life!” We could take a tip from Pablo Picasso. He wrote, “When a man knows how to do something-he ceases to be a man when he stops doing it!” James put it this way, “He that knoweth to do good and doeth it not…to him it is sin!” (James 4:17). We need to take purpose-driven steps to avoid the “Dismal company-being only true to ourselves”. We need to quit “ploughing the sea” quit living life with good intentions “preparing for something that never happens!” Get over our “common colds of the soul” and “wake up and live that life of impact for Christ now!” “Do not live life that is not life-suck all the marrow out” and once we begin, “never stop doing it!” That is the path to an eternity with “No Regrets!”

 Posted by at 1:49 pm

“LAST DAY BATTLEFIELD-THE HEART OF MAN”

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Feb 102019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “LAST DAY BATTLEFIELD-THE HEART OF MAN”  —  By Ron Woodrum

In his book, The Brother’s Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky poignantly states, “The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man“. That battle involves recognizing truth-God’s truth. The devil is, and always has been, in the business of perverting God’s truth into a lie, and getting man to believe it, and thus choose the path of error and destruction. He is a master of deception and his lies are passing for truth quite successfully in our Post-Christian world. Paul warned us that in the last days we would be inundated with “doctrines of demons“( I Tim. 4:1), and that God would let the world “believe a lie, because they believed not the truth” (II Thes. 2:11). Man’s problem today is not knowing the truth, but “suppressing” and “rejecting” the truth in exchange for a lie. Dostoevsky warned about that too. He wrote, “Above all don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lies comes to the point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others, and having no respect he ceases to know love“. That I believe is a very accurate description of the very condition modern man finds himself in. David Roper, in his book A Beacon in the Darkness, hits the nail on the head, when he writes, “We live in a world of cosmic deceit, hidden agendas, treacherous motivations, illusions, and lies. And Satan is behind it all. His strategy is to deceive. His objective is to destroy. His shrewd cruel mind is behind the lies that buffet us all day long, the media messages that encourage us to ‘find ourselves’ in something other than the living God, to go for the gusto, but to leave the Savior out. The lie comes into the world in the guise of beauty and good, (our minds are repelled by ugliness and obvious evil), but the deceit inevitably sickens the soul and it begins to die. For when Satan has accomplished his purpose and separated men and women from God, what can they do but wither and die eternally?” That is why Isaiah warned, “Woe to them that call evil good, and good evil; that call darkness light, and light darkness” ( Isaiah 5:20). Denis deRougement, in a book entitled The Devil’s Share, clarifies the plight of our modern world with more clarity than anyone I have ever read. He says the problem today is compounded by the difference between a lie and a pure lie. This is what he says, “There are two ways of lying, as there are two ways of deceiving a customer. If a scale registers 15 ounces, you can say, ‘it is a pound’. Your lie will remain relative to an invariable measure of the true. If the customer checks it he can see that he is being robbed, and he knows by how much you are robbing him; a truth remains as a judge between you. But if you tamper with the scale itself, it is the criterion of the truth which is denatured; there is no longer any possible control. And little by little you will forget that you are cheating. You may even bet that you will exercise all your scruples in giving exact weight, perhaps by adding a few pinches for ‘good measure’, for the smile of the buyer and the satisfaction of your virtue. That is ‘pure lying’, the moment you falsify the scale of truth itself, all your virtues are at the service of evil and are accomplices in its contagion“. The devil has tampered with the scale. He has caused us to throw out the accurate scale of God’s inspired Word, and receive his counterfeit scale. When the standard is corrupted, even honorable people become agents of evil. They believe they are doing right when in fact what they are doing is dead wrong, and they unwittingly foist their wrong-doing on others. That is what has happened today. Satan has moved the parameters so that even ‘principled people’ have been brought into the service of evil. Their lack of a fixed reference point has led them into profound moral confusion and deep sense of insecurity. I saw a cartoon once depicting two people talking. One said to the other, “I still believe in evil-I just don’t know what qualifies!” People still believe in good and evil, it’s just that no one knows where the parameters are anymore-and that makes for a very dangerous and uncertain world! Black is white; white is black; up is down, and down is up; we are turned loose, without an anchor, of a raging sea helplessly tossed about by whichever way the cultural wind blows. We will end up destroyed on the rocks unless we turn back to the Word that transcends culture and circumstance, and is older than time!

It seems to me that Norman Maclean raises that question in his book A River Runs Through It. His book and Robert Redford’s movie about how A Presbyterian minister tries to teach his sons about life through fly fishing and spiritual wisdom. One son seems to find the truth, while the other refuses the guidance and help and remains a free-spirited son who drinks too much, lives too fast, and eventually loses his life in a back-alley brawl. The father tries, through the medium of fly fishing, to pass on to his sons the underlying, unchanging values of his life. Maclean recalls one streamside exchange with his father: “‘What have you been reading?’I asked. ‘A book’, my father replied. It was on the ground on the other side of him. So I would not have to bother to look over his knees to see it, he said, ‘A good Book’. Then he told me, ‘in the part I was reading it says the Word was in the beginning, and that’s right. I used to think that water was first, but if you listen carefully you will hear the words underneath the water’. ‘That’s because you’re a preacher first and then a fisherman’, I told him. ‘No’, my father said, ‘You are not listening carefully. The water runs over the words. Paul will tell you the same thing.’ I looked to see where the book was left open and knew just enough Greek to recognize ‘logos’ as the Word. I guessed from it and from the argument that I was looking at the first verse of John’ “. Mclean emphasizes that we can take the truth and try to help but it has to be received, not rejected. Mclean writes, “Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know are the ones who elude us. But we can still love them-we can love completely without complete understanding”.

In today’s message we are considering how in the last days, Christ’s Church will find itself living in the location where Satan’s throne is. The Church will be challenged by the world to accept the deception that the devil has pawned off as truth. Some will hold fast to the truth, while others will defect and forsake the Lord and Savior who saved them. Jesus comes, as the one speaking a sharp two-edged sword from his mouth, cutting through all the deception with His truth. Only those willing to welcome the word will be enabled to stand fast in a world where the devil is tampering with the scale of truth!

 Posted by at 2:44 pm

“Practicing what the years and centuries are saying against the hours.”

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Feb 032019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Practicing what the years and centuries are saying against the hours.”  By:  Ron Woodrum

Someone, hoping to catch the witty cowboy entertainer Will Rogers off guard, asked him, “If you knew you only had 48 hours to live how would you spend them?” He responded, “One at a time!” Days, like hours, (and minutes and seconds for that matter), must be lived one day at a time. A cleaning lady was once heard telling her customer-“the problem with life is that it’s so daily!” Howard Hendricks used to say, “The problem with the Christian life is that it is so daily!” There is truth to that. The children of Israel grew “weary” of the daily manna from heaven. We become weary with our daily gifts of 24 hours from God. We take them for granted and miss out on their intended fullness. Ralph Waldo Emerson used to say “If the stars only came out one night a year, we would stay up all night to look at them!” But because they are daily we take them for granted. That being said, there is a special opportunity to embrace the Christian life being “so daily” and making it “Really Daily!”…by making sure that it is lived to the fullest intention of God! Otherwise we might be wasting our days instead of living them. Again, Emerson was convicting at this point. He said, “You cannot kill time without injuring eternity!” The challenge before us as Christians is to live one day at a time with the measure and meaning God intended, In his book For The Living Of These Days, William Elliott Jr. observes, “The reason why so many of us are overwrought, tense, distracted and anxious is that we have never mastered the art of living one day at a time. Physically we do live one day at a time. We can’t quite help ourselves. But mentally we live in all three tenses at once-Past, Present, and Future…And that will not work! The load of tomorrow, added to that of yesterday, carried today makes the strongest falter!” He might be onto something…we see a lot of “faltering Christians“. Maybe it is because they have not yet mastered “the art of living one day at a time“. The Bible has much to say about the living out of our days. It reminds us “Our days upon earth are but a shadow” (Job 8:9). “Are thy days as the days of man?” (Job 10:5). Man that is born of woman is “few of days” (Job 14:1). It is no wonder Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom” (Ps. 90:12). The Bible gives us some wisdom as it discusses daily activities that will ensure that are daily lives are “Really Daily” from God’s perspective.

First of all our days are to have a Daily Code. The dictionary defines a “code” as a “systematic code of law“. For the Christian his Daily Code is of course the Word of God. Days not spent in the Word of God are days robbed of Divine Perspective and Purpose! One of God’s great servants used to call the Bible “The Kings Highway Code“. Others have called it “The Christians Road Map“. We all should keep a daily appointment to spend quality time in God’s Word. It should be read; it should be studied; it should be memorized; it should be obeyed; it should be shared DAILY! We read that the Berean Christians were First Century examples for us. “They received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures DAILY whether those things were so or not!” (Acts 17:11). Peter told the believers he was nurturing to “as newborn babies desire earnestly the sincere milk of the word that you may grow thereby” ( I Pet. 2:2). A baby’s number one desire, above all else, is for “milk“. They desire it daily…several times daily! That is the kind of appetite that God delights to see in His growing children. The nineteenth century British statesman William Gladstone echoed that sentiment when he spoke of Christians needing to spend time in God’s word. He said, “This great spiritual library shows me how to meet and overcome life’s temptations, sorrows, and oppressions. It furnishes me techniques for the mastery of fear, anxiety, and despair. The Word of God corrects my perspective, and saves me from being undone by the immediate. It gives me something which all of us need so much in these desperate days-the long view. It tells me-in Emerson’s words ‘what the years and centuries are saying as against the hours’ “We need that daily-OUR DAILY CODE!

The Psalmist points out to us another imperative “daily activity” to help us make our daily lives REALLY DAILY. He reminds us of our Daily Call. He writes, “LORD I have called out daily unto thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee” (Ps. 89:9). Asaph writes, “Offer unto God thanksgiving: and pay thy vows unto the MOST HIGH and call upon me in the Day of Trouble: and I will deliver thee and thou shalt glorify me!” (Ps. 50:14-15). I believe that every day should involve the daily call. Some call to the LORD as they start their day; others all throughout the day; others as they close out their day. Actually we are told to “pray without ceasing” meaning that our days should be filled with daily calls to the LORD, That is one thing the disciples learned about Jesus. He could not go long at all even during His busy days without “CALLING HOME TO THE FATHER“. One of the touching scenes in E.T. is the expression of his heart’s desire to “phone home“. That should be our daily heart’s desire. We are people of the Daily Call! One of the things I regret the most is that while living away from my parents that I did not call and talk to them more. Oh to be able to do that today! Don’t let your prayerlessness cause you to regret. Practice faithfully your Daily Call.

A third gem from the Book of Psalms reminds us of another Daily Discipline. The Psalmist writes, “So will I sing praise unto thy name forever, that I may perform my daily vows!” (Ps. 61:8). There it is-we have a Daily Chore. The dictionary defines a chore as “a small or odd job“. In his Devotional Book Daily Readings, W.E. Sangster tells of a shy Christian who sought the face of God for a way to minister by his life. God led him to have a ministry of encouragement by sending cards. Cards to those who were sick. Cards to the discouraged. Cards to the bereaved. Cards to family; cards to strangers; to people he read about in the paper; he heard about in conversations. His whole life took on a new twist. What a small insignificant thing to do. But only eternity will reveal the impact of that secret single daily chore of a dedicated servant of Jesus. Can you and I find some daily chore to vow to do for God? Seek His face. Make that commitment. Daily keep your vow! We have given our days some structure. A Daily Code; A Daily Call; A Daily Chore; now let’s go a little deeper. Jesus insisted that our Days must include our Daily Cross! Listen to Him as He says, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross DAILY, and keep on following me!” (Luke 9:23). We all have our own little interpretations of the “crosses we bear for Jesus“. But A.W. Tozer makes Jesus’ intention very clear…”we must recognize that the cross was the symbol of death; it stood for the abrupt, violent ending of if the life of a human being. The man who took up his cross and started down the road in Roman times had already said goodbye to family and friends. He was not coming back. He was not going out to have his life re-directed; he was going out to have his life ended! The cross made no compromises, modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all of the man, completely, and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck swift and hard, and when it was finished, the man was no more!” So it is when you give your life to Jesus. Your life. Lived only for yourself, and for your interests, benefits, and desires, has been lost in His cause. To lose it, is to gain it. To try to keep it is to lose it all. Daily pick up your cross. Paul said, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). That is the essence of the Daily Cross. I love Elizabeth Cephane’s hymn/poem demanding nothing less. She wrote:

“I take, O cross, thy Shadow For My abiding place;

I ask no other sunshine than The Sunshine of His face;

Content to let the world go by, To know no gain or loss,

My sinful self my only shame; My glory all His Cross”

  

Lastly there is our Daily Care. Jesus had a daily burden. He said, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save them that are perishing” (Luke 19:10). Jesus invested His days as the Good Shepherd seeking the lost sheep. That was His Daily Care. It took Him into locations; into individual lives; into conversations with sinners, publicans, harlots, and demoniacs, not to mention lepers, and even criminals. On the cross hear him engage with criminals about heaven and the forgiveness of sin. We talk about the weather; about the Cubs winning the World Series; about our jobs; our families; our hobbies. How about our Savior? Daily? Stephan Olford tells about a converted cleaning lady named Aunt Sophie. After she found Jesus she used to say that she was “called to scrub and preach Jesus”. Daily, she engaged everyone she met about her Savior Jesus. Someone made fun of her saying that they saw her talking about Christ to a wooden Indian in front of the town’s Cigar store. Sophie heard about it and said, “Perhaps I did. My eyesight is not too good anymore, but talking to a wooden Indian is not as bad as being a wooden Christian and never talking to anybody about the Lord Jesus.” Something we are told to do daily, some of us never do at all ever! To make our Daily Christian lives Really Daily we need that Daily Code-Daily Call-Daily Chore-Daily Cross-and Daily Care. Don’t let today pass without them! If you do you are “killing your days-and injuring eternity!”

 Posted by at 2:47 am

Remain a “Child of Pure Unclouded Brow and Dreaming Eyes of Wonder”.

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Jan 272019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: Remain a “Child of Pure Unclouded Brow and Dreaming Eyes of Wonder”.      By:  Ron Woodrum

Fyodor Dostoevsky, the Russian writer was one of the greatest writers of all time. His books, such as Crime and Punishment; the Brothers Karamazov; the Idiot; Notes from Underground; Poor Folk; The House of the Dead; and others are still read by devoted literary fans. After escaping execution and living out his sentence in a Russian prison, he embraced Christ as Savior, through the reading of the gospel story in a New Testament given to him. He wrote a letter to the woman that had given him the New Testament stating that though he was a “child of unbelief and doubt up to this moment, and I am certain that I shall remain so to the grave” he also wrote of his love for Christ, and wrote, “I have formulated my creed…all is clear and holy to me…extremely simple…here it is: I believe that there is nothing lovelier, deeper or more rational and more perfect that the Savior. I say to myself with a jealous love that not only is there no one else like Him, but there can be no one. I would even say more -if anyone could prove to me that Christ is outside the truth, and if the truth really did exclude Christ, I should choose to remain with Christ rather than the truth!” In his book The Idiot, Dostoevsky explains his own conversion, describing it through the words of Prince Myskin when he sees a painting by Hans Holbein depicting Christ-dead in the tomb: He writes, “Looking at that painting might cause one to lose his faith…yet it is precisely in contemplating Jesus’ death that faith grows stronger and receives a dazzling light; then it is revealed as faith in Christ’s steadfast love for us, a love capable of embracing death to bring us salvation. This love, which did not recoil before death, in order to show its depth, is something I can believe in; Christ’s total self-gift overcomes every suspicion and enables me to trust myself to Him completely “.

After being pardoned from execution by Nicholas I, not only was he converted, but vowed that since he didn’t have to die that he would “turn every minute into an age, nothing would be wasted…life is a gift…every minute can be an eternity of happiness“. Being pardoned by the Czar and finding Christ. What more do you need to “live happily ever after?” The truth of the matter is that Dostoevsky did not live happily ever after in Christ. He eventually drifted into gambling. He soon found himself drinking-and soon fell into alcoholism. He became the poster-child for a Christian who loses his first love for Christ and finding out the truth of the Savior’s warning that the slippery slope of waning passion would result in the extinguishing of the candlestick of Christian testimony. That slope is not far from the path we all travel. How do we prevent that tragedy from becoming our reality too?

Jesus warned us about letting the pure passion of being new in Christ slip away. There is something in the perspective of a child that is vital for growth and life. Lewis Carroll, in his book Through the Looking Glass, identifies this attribute as “a pure unclouded brow and the dreaming eyes of a child“. C.K. Chesterton spoke of this in his book Orthodoxy. He called this childlike faith an “elephantine pursuit of the obvious“. He illustrated this attribute by describing the never-waning enthusiasm of the child for exciting adventure. He writes “Children always say-‘Do it again!’ and the grown up does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do It Again’ to the sun; and every evening ‘Do It Again’ to the moon; It may not be automatic necessity that makes daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we“. The loss of our child-like first love causes us to become bored with God and spiritual things too soon. Then our attention is turned to lesser things. Ron Hansen says, “God gives us just enough to seek Him, but never enough to fully find Him“. His goal is to keep the excitement of ever increasing joy and excitement and novelty with each new experience. Meister Eckhart also described this when he wrote, “The soul must long for God in order to be set aflame by God’s love; but if the soul cannot yet feel this longing, then it must long for the longing. Too long for the longing is also from God“. Clyde Kilby, Literature teacher at Wheaton College says that the losing of this awe-inspiring first love is a casualty of the fall-“The fall of man can hardly be more forcefully felt than simply in noting what we all do with a fresh snowfall or the first buds of spring. On Monday they fill us with delight and meaning and on Tuesday we ignore them. No amount of shouting to us that this is all wrong changes the fact for very long…only some aesthetic power which is akin to God’s own creativity has the capability for renewal, for giving us the power to see“.

Paul wrote to young Timothy about what to do if he found that this first love, this child-like passion, this daily excitement and awe with our relationship with God, through Jesus Christ has faded from a red-hot flame to a white ash-what do we do? Paul said, “Stir it up again“. The word is a compound Greek word. It is made up of four different parts. Ana-“again”; zoe-“to live”; pur-“fire”; ein-present infinitive means “keep on stirring“. When you realize the flame has died down; before it goes out- stir those ashes back to life; again and again; billowing it into a glowing and growing flame! That can be done anywhere; anytime; by anyone! It must be done to keep our first love alive.

At a conference on evangelism sponsored by Billy Graham in Manila, a Cambodian man mesmerized the audience with his story of daily meditation. Under the Pol Pot regime he was held in a concentration camp like those depicted in the movie The Killing Fields. Believing he had little time to live, he wanted to spend time each day with God, preparing for death. “Even more than deprivation of food, even more than the torture, I resented having no time to meet with God. Always guards were yelling at us, forcing us to work, work, and work.” Finally he noticed that the guards could get no one to clean out the cesspits. He volunteered for the wretched job. No one ever interrupted me, and I could do my work at a leisurely pace. Even in those stinking depths, I could look up and see blue sky. I could praise God that I survived another day. I could commune with God undisturbed, and pray for my friends and relatives all around me. That became for me a glorious time of meeting with God“. That’s how you keep the first love alive and glowing. Do you love God enough to pay that price to have uninterrupted communion with Him?

 Posted by at 2:31 am

“More Star-like Than a Star”

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Jan 062019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “More Star-like Than a Star” (By:  Ron Woodrum)

This past week Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature, citing the reason being his masterful talent of writing lyrical poetry like no one else in history. Most who are familiar with Dylan’s music, would admit that his vocal abilities are sometimes hard to endure, but his lyrics indeed are masterful. One of the songs/lyrics that have been chosen to illustrate his lyrical-poetic talent is his song It’s Not Dark Yet. Here are some of the words:

Shadows Are Falling

I’ve Been Here All Day

It’s too hot to sleep,

Time is Running Away Feel

Like My Soul is Turning to Steel

I’ve Got Scars that the Sun Didn’t Heal

There’s Not Even Room Enough

To Be Anywhere

It’s Not Dark Yet,

But It’s Getting There!

     

Well My Sense of Humanity

Has Gone Down the Drain

Behind Every Beautiful Thing,

There’s Some Kind of Pain…

Sometimes my burden,

Seems more than I can bear

It’s Not Dark Yet,

But It’s Getting There!

    

I was born here, and I’ll die here

Against My Will I Know

It Looks Like I’m Moving,

But I’m Standing Still

Every Nerve In My Body

Is Vacant and Numb

I can’t even Remember,

What I came here to Get Away From

Don’t even hear a Murmur of A Prayer

It’s Not Dark Yet, But It’s Getting There! Darkness.

   

Darkness seems to be falling all around us. Even the most optimistic seem to agree with Dylan. “It’s Not Dark Yet…But It’s Getting There”. Darkness has always been something I have avoided. Thanks to my older brother, who loved to frighten me during early childhood, I was afraid of the dark early on. I used to fall asleep in bright light, having protested so vehemently that my parents left my bedroom lights on at night! I lived in Hannibal, Mo., during college years. Visitors often requested that we take them to Mark Twain Cave. Every trip included the tour guide taking us deep into the cave, recounting the story of Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher being in there, when their candle went out! Then as he turned the lights out-he illustrated that fact by introducing us to darkness so dark you could not see your hand in front of your face, though you were touching your nose with it! That is darkness. There would be no way out of that cave without light in the darkness. Years later, with a youth group spelunking in a cave in the Ozarks, it dawned on me that even though we had two or three flashlights among us, all it would take is for the batteries to burn out; another get dropped; and get separated from the leader with the last light, then it could end in disaster. It was time to head back to the entrance of the cave…back into the safety of the light!

As Christians we are watching with worried eyes as our world’s days become darker. The question we must ask and answer is what role do we play in these dimming days? Jesus said, “I am the light of the world”( John 8:12). He also said, “You all are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). Paul, in writing to the Philippians, told them to “shine as lights in a crooked and perverse world…hold forth the Word of Life”(Phil. 2:15). The Bible makes it clear that we who know the Lord, who are a part of His Church, have a role to play in the darkening of our days. We are the ones who have a role to play in the “not dark yet!”. Adlai Stevenson, in paying tribute to Eleanor Roosevelt, in a speech before the United Nations, in November of 1962, spoke these words, “She would rather light a candle, than to curse the darkness! Her glow has warmed the world!”. Proper example for Christians to emulate in these last darkening days. I recently came across a poem, in my mind also fitting for a Nobel Peace Prize for Literature for its author, though he never got one-It is called Love’s Lantern, by Alfred Joyce Kilmer. Here is his masterpiece.

Love’s Lantern

Because the road was steep and long

And through a dark and lonely land,

God set upon my lips a song,

And put a Lantern in my hand.

  

Through miles on weary miles of night

That stretch relentless in my way

My lantern burns serene and white,

An exhausted cup of day.

  

O golden lights and lights like wine,

How dim your boasted splendors are

Behold this little lamp of mine,

Is more star-like than a star!

  

In Matthew 13:43 Jesus prophesies, by quoting Daniel 12:3, of those who are Wise believers who “will shine as stars, (though Jesus says, ‘as the Sun'”. But then remember, our sun is a star! One of the smaller ones in the universe. But what a powerful one. One that daily overcomes the darkness of the night with its sunrise. So is our daily assignment in these darkening days. We are the reason it is “Not Dark Yet!”. Don’t spend your time “cursing the darkness” but “light and lift your lantern!” Voltaire, the famous French Atheist and Philosopher, told his generation that he was seeing the “twilight of Christianity”. Charles Spurgeon responded that Voltaire did not know the difference between a sunset and sunrise. He said, “It might be twilight…but it is the twilight just before the dawn!” Christians-“let’s hear the song on your lips, and the Lantern in your hands”. You are the reason “it’s not dark yet!” Christian-“get your shine on!”

 Posted by at 2:30 pm

“Avoid the reefs of the New Year!”

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Dec 302018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Avoid the reefs of the New Year!”  (By:  Ron Woodrum)

        Let’s say that your phone rings tomorrow morning, and it’s a call from the manager of your bank. He tells you, “I received a very unusual call the other day. Someone who loves you very much and is quite wealthy, has given you a large sum of money. This anonymous donor will be depositing 86,400 cents into your account every single day”. “How’s that again?” you ask. “Every single day this person will deposit 86,400 cents into your account”. Is that much money you wonder? Your calculator reveals that it amounts to $864 every day. That’s pretty good. “But there’s one condition-you have to spend it every single day. You cannot save it up! What is not spent is taken away. This person will do that every day…but you must spend it daily or it will be wasted!” You go back to your calculator and figure out that that $864 times 7 equals $6,048 per week. That amount, multiplied by 52 comes to $314,496 per year. That’s a pretty good deal. BUT THAT IS FANTASY! But in REALITY…Somebody really does love you. He does give you 86, 400 seconds per day. Each moment is worth more than all the money in the world. Money could not even buy one second of life…if you have a terminal disease. That someone is God. The condition is you must spend that amount every day. You can’t save up time today and use it tomorrow-there is no such thing as a 27-hour day. You have opportunity each day to invest your precious commodity of time-or to waste it. How will you spend your daily gift? The Psalmist wrote “Lord show me…the number of my days…how fleeting is my life”. (Ps. 39:4). Paul said, “Redeem the time, because the days are evil…do not be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is for you”. (Eph. 5:17).

     As we race into 2019, almost two decades into the new millennium, we should make it our goal to spend our days wisely. How do we do that? The overall understanding of that is too broad for a Pastor’s Perspective…but let me exhort you to consider two important areas of investment. The first one is WORSHIP-Personal and Public-Individual and Corporate. Gordon Dahl describes the modern dilemma that most Americans face, He writes: “Most Americans tend to worship their work; work at their play; and play at their worship”. (He hit the nail right on the head!!!). But he continues…”As a result, their meanings and values are distorted. Their relationships disintegrate faster than they can keep them in repair, and their lifestyles resemble a cast pf characters in search of a plot!” What a diagnosis. Charles Hummel, in his book Tyranny of the Urgent, has his finger on our pulse when he writes: “When we stop long enough to think about it, we realize our dilemma goes deeper than a shortage of time; it is basically a problem of priorities…failure to do what is really important. The winds of…demands…have driven us into the reefs of frustration”. The Apostle Paul talked about those whose “faith was shipwrecked” (I Tim. 1:19). One of the likely causes may be how we fail to prioritize our time to put worship first in our lives! Faith without worship is doomed to failure! C.S. Lewis knew that well. He told us the secret of starting our day from Heaven’s perspective. He wrote: “It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your cares of the day rush at your like wild animals. The first job each morning consists in shoving them back; listening to the Other Voice, taking the Other Point of View…standing back from the fussing’s and fretting’s; coming in out of the wind.” Giving God the first 30 minutes of the day in reading His Word and Prayer takes you out of the winds that would shipwreck you on the reefs of frustration and failure. Time well invested in personal worship.

But also, we need to remember that the Scripture teaches us that there are no lone-wolf Christians. The writer of the Book of Hebrews, writing to help Christians avoid relapse and apostasy from the faith, tells them to “stop forsaking the assembling of themselves together, as the habit of some have become”. (Hebrews 10:25). Ravi Zacharias tells us the best definition of worship that I have ever heard. It was a definition that originated with Archbishop William Temple. He wrote: ” Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God. The quickening of our conscience by His Holiness; The nourishment of our minds with His Truth, (His Word); The purifying of our imagination with His Beauty; The opening of our hearts to His Love; The surrender of our will to His Purpose-all this gathered up in adoration, that is the most selfless emotion our nature is capable of”. A weekly investment in that kind of Worship, at least 2-3 hours per week minimum, in corporate worship with other believers is the only way to guarantee the development of genuine Christians. But worship without service is incomplete. Jesus told Satan, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve!” (Matthew 4: 10). Submission must lead to service. Worship must lead to wonder and witness. T.S. Eliot, in his poetry made this very plain…he wrote: “You are not here to verify-instruct yourself, or inform curiosity, or carry reports. You are here to kneel!” We must never forget that! One of the most important books I have ever read is the book The One Thing You Can’t Do In Heaven by Mark Cahill. It is a book of practical theology on Witnessing and Winning the Lost. The book is filled with convicting quotes that Cahill shares from his favorite preacher- (one of mine too), Charles Haddon Spurgeon. These quotes are prods used by the Holy Spirit to remind us of our most important response to worship and that is to witness. In closing let me share a couple of them. “Every Christian is a Witness or an Imposter!” “If there is any one point in which the Christian Church ought to keep its fervent white heat it is winning the lost. If there is anything about which we cannot tolerate Luke warmness it is the matter of sending the gospel to a dying world”. “If sinners will be damned at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. If they perish, let it be with our arms about their knees…in the teeth of our exertions, let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for!” “Spit on me, but repent! Laugh at me, but believe in my Master. Trample me under your feet like dirt in the street, but damn not your souls!”

Time invested in worship that leads to witness will be greatly rewarded in eternity. Learn those lessons now-you won’t be able to reclaim lost time in Heaven. Any faith that fails to spend time wisely in those two disciplines, by God’s measure is a “shipwrecked faith-blown onto the reefs of spiritual frustration!”.

 Posted by at 2:11 pm