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A VITAL VISION FOR THE CHURCH-ONE NEEDED FOR REVIVAL?

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Sep 302018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: A VITAL VISION FOR THE CHURCH-ONE NEEDED FOR REVIVAL?

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     A.W. Tozer wrote several years ago “If we, (who belong to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ), are ever going to bring back spiritual power to our lives-we must SEE God and Jesus AS THEY REALLY ARE!”.    We are told in First Peter that “having not seen Jesus, we love Him”. (I Peter 1:8).  We are also told that we serve a God who is invisible and “dwells in unapproachable light” (I Tim. 6:16). In Colossians 1:15 we are told that “Jesus Christ is the express image of that invisible God”.  We are also told in Hebrews 11:27 Moses “endured as seeing Him who is invisible”.  The question to be answered is then “how do we see Jesus Christ AS HE REALLY IS?”  One the very early reformers, Desiderius Erasmus, wrote a very interesting preface to his Greek New Testament.  He wrote, “The Bible will give you Christ…in an intimacy so close that He would be less visible if he stood before your eyes”. I believe that is true.  But I think that we have lost clear perception of the Christ that is revealed in Scripture.  Dr. Peter Kuzmic, President of the Evangelical Seminary in Osijek, Yugoslavia speaks to this issue.  He tells his students, “We must renew the credibility of the Christian Mission.  Missions and Evangelism are not primarily a question of Methodology, Money, and Management…but a question of authenticity, credibility, and spiritual power.  In going out to evangelize in Yugoslavia I frequently tell our seminary students that our main task may be to simply ‘wash the face of Jesus’ for it has been dirtied and distorted by the compromises of the institutional Christianity through the centuries and the angagonistic propaganda of athiestic communism in recent decades”.  That is not only true of Europe.  Even in America our perspective of the Jesus of Scripture has been dirtied and distorted by our failure to preach and teach the “truth about Him as presented in the Bible!”  Someone has written, “More than 1900 years ago there was a man born contrary to the laws of nature.  He lived in poverty and raised in obscurity.  He did not travel exclusively.  The only time He crossed the borders of His country was when He ventured into Egypt-as a child-fleeing Herod the Great.  His relatives were inconspicuous.  He had neither training nor formal education.  Yet in His Infancy-He startled a King.  in His childhood-He confused the Scholars; In His manhood He ruled the course of nature; He walked on the billows of the sea as if it was paved sidewalk; He put the raging sea to sleep by His own lullabies; He healed the multitudes and did not charge them for His services; He never wrote a book, yet all the libraries in this country could not hold the volumes written about Him.  He never wrote a song-yet He has inspired more songs than anyone in history.  He never founded a college-yet all the schools of all time, cannot boast of more students than the multitudes that have been discipled at His feet.  He never marshalled an army, nor drafted a soldier, nor fired a gun, yet no leader has ever had that many followers follow Him, and been under His marching orders, then all the armies of the world, and men and women have surrendered to Him without Him firing a shot.  He never practiced psychiatry-yet He has brought healing and stability to more people than all the counselors in the world combined!  He stands on the highest pinnacle of Heaven’s glory. Proclaimed by God-Acknowledged by Angels-Adored by Saints-Feared by Demons!  The Living Lord Jesus Christ-Lord and Savior!”

 

     H.G. Wells, the great historian, and not a Christian historian I might add, said that “historians give a test of greatness to men of history.  The big question is-what did they leave behind?  Did he start men to thinking in fresh lines?  Stimulate new vigor-followed after him? You judge the size of the ship by the size of the wake it leaves behind”.  What kind of wake did Jesus leave behind?  Bishop Stephen Neill, in his Interpretation of the New Testament, writes, “What kind of stone could it be that, once thrown into the pool of human existence could set in motion ripples that would go on spreading until the utmost rim of the world had been reached?” (p.19).   That is what Jesus did!  But have we lost that vision?  Do we still feel the awe and impact after these centuries? William Blake in his poem on The Vision of Christ doesn’t think so.

 

 

He wrote:  “The Vision of Christ that thou dost see

                                               Is my vision’s worst enemy.

                                               Thine has a great hooked nose like thine

                                               Mine a snubbed nose like mine!

                                               Both of us read the Bible day and night-

                                               You read it black, I read it white!”

 

Dorothy Sayers agrees with our distortion.  She says that the Church today has tamed the Biblical Christ.  She wrote:  “The Church has very efficiently clipped the claws of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah…and certified Him as a safe household pet for pale curates and old ladies!”  H.A. Ironside said that it is dangerous for Christians to traffic in unfelt truth.  In other words, we may know Jesus…without really KNOWING the Jesus of the New Testament in the fulness that we need!  IN OTHER WORDS, THERE MAY BE A GAP BETWEEN OUR VISION AND OUR VENTURE-BETWEEN OUR DOCTRINE AND OUR DUTY-BETWEEN OUR POSITION AND OUR PRACTICE-BETWEEN OUR PERSPECTIVE AND OUR PERFORMANCE!  When the Apostle John, banished to the Isle of Patmos, saw a vision of Christ, he was so awe-struck that he shared a transforming message to the Churches.  Perhaps we need to get a glimpse of that glory again.  Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade of Christ had such a life transforming vision.  He visited Scotland in 1947.  He spent time with the great N.T. scholar James Stewart.  Stewart told him-“Bill if we can show the world that being committed to Jesus Christ is not tame, humdrum, sheltered monotony-but instead the most exciting thrilling adventure a human spirit can ever know.  Those standing outside the Church looking in-wondering who Jesus is-will instead come in-crown Him King-pay allegiance to Him-and we will see the greatest revival THIS SIDE OF PENTECOST!”    That can still be true for us today.  We need a renewed and refreshed vision of Our Lord.

 

 Posted by at 2:10 am

The Bible: Relic or Relevant?

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Sep 232018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The Bible: Relic or Relevant?”

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     The Bible continues to be the perennial best seller of all books!  That being said, there is a legitimate question about the impact that it is currently having on lives in this 21st century.  Just before he gave up hosting the Tonight Show, Jay Leno did an on the street interview of people, and asked them Bible questions, and aired it on his show.  What was the results?  It was hilarious and horrific at the same time!  The questions were not tricky or hard.  They were intended to be easy.  That’s what made it so funny…and frightening!  Leno asked one person, “Did Adam and Eve have any children?”  After a few seconds of deep thought, a woman responded, “No, no, they never had kids!’  He then asked, “Can you name the two brothers…Cain…and———” Absolute blank stare.  Had no idea.  They were probably thinking Cain and Hurricane!  No… she had no answer.  Okay—“What happened to Lot’s wife?”  Zero response!  Someone blurted out, “Who is Lot?’  A little hint-“She turned into________” The person blurted out her guess—“An Angel?”  Leno then asked someone-“can you name one of the Apostles?”  No reply.  “How about one of the Beatles” Immediate response-“John, Paul, George, and Ringo!”  The crowd cheered!  “How many commandments are there?” One guy replied boldly-“Three! There are three commandments!”  Another corrected him-“No, everybody knows there are twenty…twenty commandments!”  Another in the crowd heard that and answered “no, it’s like the Apostles…there are twelve!”    Leno, assuming someone in the know asked, “can you name four of them?”  No one could name four.  “How about one?”  The man replied, “Something about not coveting your neighbor’s wife!”  (Leno said, “Interesting that is the only one he can remember!”).  Leno said, “You mean if she’s pretty?”  He said, “yea, I think that’s it!”  “Is your neighbor’s wife pretty?”  The man replied, “No!”  Leno told him, “I hope she is not watching tonight!” “Who was swallowed by a whale?” Leno asked.  The man responded, “A whale?  Is this a trick question?”  Let me give you a hint, Leno replied—“Jo….”  “Joan of Arc” was the quick response!  “No… Jo……..?”  “Joe DiMaggio?” “No” Jay told them.  Someone in the crowd asked…”Pinocchio?”  “Which two cities were destroyed in the Book of Genesis?”  “Let me give you a hint—Sodom________?”  “Saddam Hussein?”  This brief episode revealed that we live in a whole new world, and nothing has been more adversely affected by postmodernism than the Church and its relationship to God’s Word-The Holy Scriptures!  The sad thing may be that the Church may not have fared much better!  Bible Illiteracy is rampant.  But it hasn’t always been that way.  The Bible has impacted civilization all through out man’s history.  Some of the greatest thinkers of all time have been those who were literate of the Bible, and let it have an impact on their thinking and therefore their lives!

 

Novelist, Philosopher, Author, and Literary critic George Steiner wrote, in the New Yorker, some very affirming words on the influence that the Bible has had on civilization…until recent years.  He wrote, “One is indeed tempted to define modernism in Western Culture in terms of a recession of common currency recognition of both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.  That recognition was once the sinew of literacy, the shared matter of intellect and sentiment from the sixteenth century onward…not only in the spheres of personal and public piety, but also in those of politics, social institutions, and the life of literary and aesthetic imagination”.  Virginia Stem Owens, agreeing with Steiner, went on to say, “All Western literature… is a Midrash, (a commentary) on the Bible”. But she went on-“It has become like an unplayed Stradivarius, this once-Holy Text now inhabits the air-conditioned glass case of DISPASSIONATE DISREGARD!”  In other words, this Bible that used to be so revered and relevant…has become a revered but relegated relic!  George Herbert, in his book The Temple—1633 wrote, “Bibles laid open…millions of surprises!”  We have forgotten that!  Not only is it full of surprises…but full of power that we are desperately in need of.  John Calvin wrote, “No human writings, however sacredly composed, are at all capable of affecting us in a similar way.  Read Demosthenes or Cicero, read Plato or Aristotle, or any other of that class.  You will, I admit, feel wonderfully allured, pleased, moved, enchanted; but turn from them to reading the Sacred Volume, and it will so pierce your heart, so work its way into your very marrow that the comparison to that of orators and Philosophers will disappear, making it manifest that in the Sacred Volume there is a Truth Divine, something that makes it superior to all the gifts and graces attainable by man!”  C.I. Schofield, (author of the Schofield reference Bible), wrote “I gave much of my earlier life to the study of Homer and Shakespeare, and while my understanding undoubtedly profited from that study, I found keen intellectual delight in it, these books held no rebuke for my sins, nor any power to lift me above them, but, when I came to the Bible and received Him, concerning whom, after all, the whole Book is written, I entered into peace, joy, and power.  The Bible led me to Jesus and Jesus transformed my life!”

 

 

 

     That truth is expressed so well in a poem by the great Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier:

 

“We searched the world for Truth; 

We cull the good, the pure, the beautiful;

From graven tombs and written scroll. 

From all old flower fields of the soul;

And weary seekers of the best,

We come laden back from our quest,

And find that all the sages said,

Is in the Book our mothers read!”

 

We could save ourselves a lot of fruitless search if we understand that the “beginning of wisdom is in God’s Word”.  Luther sought for salvation, God, and truth desperately.  To no avail.  But as he studied Scripture he not only found the Jesus Christ as Savior, but truth for his generation, and just sharing it brought about the Great Protestant Reformation, that is still evidenced today in Evangelical Christianity.  Luther spoke about how that happened.  He wrote: “Take me for example.  I opposed indulgences and all papists; but never by force.  I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word.  Otherwise I did nothing.  And then, while I slept…the Word so greatly weakened the Papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it.  I did nothing.  The Word did it all!  Had I wanted to start trouble…I could have started a little game at Worms that even the emperor wouldn’t have been safe.  But what would it have been?  A mug’s game.  I did nothing.  I left it to the Word!  The Word did it all!”  It still does!  If we will embrace the Word and unleash the Word.  The greatest quote concerning the Bible comes from The Prince of All Preachers-Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  Someone had asked him about whether we should defend the Bible.  He gave his answer in an Address to the Annual Meeting of the British and Foreign Bible Society, May 5th, 1875.  He spoke-“There seems to me to have been twice as much done in some ages in defending the Bible as in expounding it, but if the whole of our strength shall henceforth go to the exposition and spreading of it, we may leave it pretty much to defend itself.  I do not know whether you see that lion-it is very distinctly before my eyes; a number of persons advance to attack him, while a host of us would defend the Lion, with all our strength…pardon me if I might offer a suggestion.  Open the door and let the lion out; he will take care of himself.  Why, they are gone!  He no sooner goes froth in his strength than his assailants flee.  The way to meet infidelity is to spread the Bible.  The answer to every objection against the Bible is the Bible.  Defend the Bible?  I would just a well defend a lion!”  Good advice!  Open the Bible and turn God’s ferocious Word loose.  Isaiah said, “Unleash God’s Word…It will not return void!” (Isaiah 55).

 

 Posted by at 12:39 pm

“THE CROSS OF CHRIST STILL TOWERS OVER THE WRECKS OF TIME!”

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Sep 162018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE:  “THE CROSS OF CHRIST STILL TOWERS OVER THE WRECKS OF TIME!”

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     The year was 1970, the tail end of the wild ’60’s in American history.  Dr. E. Stanley Jones, the famous Methodist missionary/author/evangelist was asked to name the number one problem of the Church.  He replied quickly, without hesitation-“the number one problem of the Church today is irrelevance!”  He went on to say that most of the opposition to the Church today stems from disappointment.  We promise to make men different-but somehow leave them indifferent!  The promise goes largely unfulfilled.  Dr. Jones went on to tell the story of a millionaire who said, “If Brother Stanley cannot convert me, I will sue him!” half in jest, and half seriously.  Dr. Jones explained, “What the world is saying is that if the Church cannot deliver on the message it preaches, we will sue you for breach of promise.  You promised this, now deliver.  Show us you can convert us, there is no other hope any other direction”.  A fairly recent Gallup poll reports that 77% of those surveyed feel that the Church is losing its influence in America.  George Barna puts it very bluntly: “Let’s cut to the chase.  After two decades of studying the Church in America, I am convinced that the typical Church as we know it has a rapidly expiring shelf-life!”  In 1998 he predicted that the Church would experience a massive revival or major ruin!   Nearly twenty years later you be the judge!  Have we seen a massive revival?  Or a melt-down of ruin?  Have we seen penetration or metrification?  Explosion or Implosion?  The Church in America has lost its influence.  As the world has grown darker we have neglected to fan the flame, and reflect the Light of our Glorious Lord into that darkness.  G. Campbell Morgan remarked, “The Church did the most for the world when it was least like the world”.

 

Ephesians is the N.T. parallel of the O.T. book of Joshua.  In Joshua, as he began to lead the People of God, into the darkness of the Idolatry of the Land of Canaan, God told him, “Every place your foot shall tread on that land have I given you, as I told Moses” (Joshua 1:3).  Joshua and the people of God, in the Old Testament were commanded to walk in the land and every step would be a conquering step by the power of God, dispelling the darkness of the Land with the Glorious presence of the LORD.  Today as Paul tells Christians to Walk in Life, in Liberty, in Light, and in Love that is more than verbiage and imagery.  It is the power of God, sending us out into the kingdom of darkness.  Each step replaces death with life; each step replaces defeat with liberty; each step replaces darkness with light; each step replaces despair with love!  In Philippians Paul told the Philippians to rejoice because all of his seemingly adverse circumstances had “fallen out unto the furtherance of the Gospel!” (Phil. 1:12).  The word “furtherance” is the word-prokope-which means “advance forward”.

 

Instead of retreating in our influence, God wants us to have a walk that will take us forward into the world.  One that is anointed with His power.  One that will conquer with each step!    We can see this happen as a slow but saturating sunrise, or a slow but systematic shining.  David told his son Solomon that God can penetrate darkness in the way he does it every twenty four hours!  In Proverbs 4:18 David said, “The steps of the righteous are like the rising sunlight, which shines a little, and a little more, until the day dawns, and the full day arises and shines in its fullness!”  Or we can do what Jesus said, “Let your light so shine among men that they will see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).  Or what Paul wrote in Philippians 2:15-16 “be harmless and blameless Children of God…shining as lights in a crooked and perverse world, holding forth the Word of Life”. 

 

 

At one of the darkest times in his life, one filled with anxiety, depression, and drugs, Hank Williams captured this truth in his familiar Gospel Song-” I wandered so aimless, life filled with sin; I wouldn’t let my dear Savior in; Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night; Praise the Lord-I saw the Light!”     That same light, emanating from our Glorious Savior, reflecting off the faces of His dear children, who make up His Church, still has the power to light up the darkness!  Don’t ever doubt that.   C.S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity like I believe in the Sun.  Not just because I see it, but by it I see clearly everything else!”  God’s light has a way of doing that still today.

 

When Robert Louis Stevenson was a young child he was sick a lot.  He couldn’t go out and play with the other children much.  He spent a lot of time watching at the window.  One evening he sat there while the sun was going down, and darkness was setting on the town.  He watched as a man, the lamplighter came down the street lighting the gas lamps.  His nurse came upon him and asked what he was watching.  He said, “I am watching the man punch holes in the darkness!”  It must have seemed like that.  Each newly lit lamp dispelled the area darkness until soon the entire town was aglow with the warm light of the lamps.  Our nation, our state, our city, our neighborhoods could use a little “punching of holes in the darkness”.  We can do it one step at a time, while we wait for the sunrise!  Amen?

 

On the south coast of China, on a hill overlooking the harbor of Macao, Portuguese settlers once built a massive cathedral.  But a typhoon proved stronger than the work of man’s hands, and some centuries ago the building fell in ruins, except for the front wall.  High upon that jutting wall, challenging the elements down through the years, is a great bronze cross.  In 1825 Sir John Bowring was shipwrecked near there.  Clinging to the wreckage of his ship, at long last he caught sight of that great cross; it showed him the path of deliverance, safety, and salvation.  After his dramatic rescue he was moved to write those familiar words, that later became his hymn that has blessed millions:

 

     “In the cross of Christ I glory,

      Towering over the wrecks of time;     

      All the light of the sacred story,    

      Gathers round its head sublime”.

 

That is why the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians-“I am determined not know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified” (I Cor. 2:2).  Helmut Thielicke wrote about the secret of the greatest preacher the world has ever seen-Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  He wrote, “In the midst of the theologically discredited nineteenth century there was s preacher who had at least six thousand people in his congregation every Sunday, whose sermons for many years were cabled to New York every Monday and reprinted in the leading newspapers of the country, and who occupied the same pulpit for almost forty years with any diminishment in the flowing abundance of his preaching and without ever repeating himself or preaching himself dry.  The fire he thus kindled, and turned into a beacon that shone across the seas and down through the generations, was no mere brush fire of sensationalism, but an inexhaustible blaze that glowed and burned on solid hearths…fed by the eternal Word.  Here was the miracle of a bush that burned with fire and yet was not consumed”.  When asked the key to his powerful preaching Spurgeon said, “I announce my text…and make a bee-line for the cross!”  THAT CROSS TOWERS OVER THE WRECKS OF TIME-AND BRINGS RESCUE AND RESTORATION OUT OF THOSE WRECKS!  LIFT IT UP HIGH…THE WAY OF THE CROSS LEADS HOME!

 

 Posted by at 12:56 pm

“The LORD of the Sum of All The Parts!”

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Sep 092018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE:  “The LORD of the Sum of All The Parts!”

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     Jay Rathman was hunting deer in the Tehema Wildlife Area near Red Bluff in northern California.  He climbed to a ledge on the slope of a rocky gorge.  As he raised his head to look over the ledge above, he sensed movement to the right of his face.  A coiled rattlesnake struck with lightning speed, just missing Rathman’s right ear!  The four-foot snake’s fangs got snagged in the neck of Rathman’s wool turtleneck sweater, and the force of the strike caused it to land on his left shoulder.  It then coiled around the neck.  He grabbed it behind the head with his left hand and could feel the warm venom running down the skin of his neck, the rattles making a furious racket.  He fell backward and slid headfirst down the steep slope through brush and lava rocks, his rifle and binoculars bouncing beside him.  “As luck would have it”, he would later report, “I ended up wedged between some rocks with my feet caught uphill from my head.  I could barely move!”  He got his right hand on his rifle and used it to dislodge the fangs from his sweater, but the snake had enough leverage to strike again!  “He made about eight attempts to hit me with his nose hitting me just below my eye four times.  I kept my head turned so he could not get a good angle with his fangs.  But oh, it was so very close.  This snake and I were eyeball to eyeball and I found out that snakes do not blink!  He had fangs that looked like darning needles!  I had to choke him to death.  It was the only way out.  I was afraid that with all the blood rushing to my head that I would become light headed and pass out.  After I strangled the snake, I tried to toss the dead snake aside, but my hands could not let go!  I had to pry my fingers from its neck!”  Rathman, who was 45, and worked for the Department of Defense in San Jose, said the entire encounter lasted 20-30 minutes!  Warden David Smith of the Wildlife Area says of meeting Rathman: “He walked toward me holding this string of rattles and said with a grin on his face, ‘I’d like to register a complaint about your wildlife here!’ ” 

 

When I first read that account I thought of how that Old Serpent the Devil attacks us!  He is always watching for his moment to strike.  Our struggle against him is a matter of life and death for our Christian lives.  He is not called the Great Dragon; That Old Serpent; A Roaring Lion; a Murderer; the Destroyer; The Tempter; a Liar; a Deceiver; Our enemy for no reason.  The Bible tells us always to be on the alert…To live our lives watchful lest we be struck suddenly by his vicious attack.  He makes the Christian life such a struggle.  We sometimes lose some battles with him.  We, when we rely on the Power and Presence of our Lord, win the battles.  Overall, we know that we have already won the war.  We are not fighting for battle, we are fighting from Battle.  We serve a LORD that always causes us to Triumph over the Evil one.  That being said, sometimes our progress in the Christian life is three steps forward, two steps back.  Sometime ours chart of progress in Christ does not show a steady climb to victory, but looks more like a roller coaster at Six Flags.  Up and Down…Up and Down…Up and Down.  Hopefully with more ups than downs!  But not always…unfortunately.  How are we to evaluate our Christian lives?

 

 

I read a quote the other day that really spoke to my heart.  It is a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Emerson wrote, “The years teach much that the days never know”.  Aristotle, the great philosopher, and teacher of Alexander the Great spoke a similar word.  He said, “The whole is greater than the sum of all the parts!”  Both of them are saying that do not measure your progress by a few secluded individual daily encounters.  Sometimes you can’t see the big picture.  Your current struggles can be overwhelming and discouraging.  Recent failures can weigh heavy and cause past victories to pale from your memory, and cause fear that you will lose more struggles, and the devil can use that fear to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  You read in Scriptures about those the enemy sifted like wheat.  But the LORD encouraged them to rebound, get back into the battle, let Him fight the Battle for them, and they could begin following up with a victory, then another to make that one look small, and turn the entire conflict around!  “The whole is greater than the sum of all the parts!”  “Years of victory will overshadow the days of defeat!”    During the dark days of WWII, the clear and challenging voice of Winston Churchill told the allies that it was “not the end!”  He told them “it was not the beginning of the end!”  He instead told them that it was more likely “The end of the beginning!”  Their “beginning” was coming to an end.  They would now move on to victory that would soon cause all past struggles and defeats to pale in light of the great coming victory.  That is the perspective that we need to keep our eyes fastened to.  Another applicable quote here might be “Those who ignore history have no past, and no future!”  But if we look clearly at history...”Those who make history are those who submit to the One who Orchestrates it!”  That is what the Apostle John was telling his dear Children.  He told them that Jesus Is LORD.  He is LORD of LIGHT; HE IS LORD OF LIFE; HE IS LORD OF LIBERTY; HE IS LORD OF LOVE.  He went on to tell them that as the LORD…i.e. “The Great I AM”…that I will be ALL you NEED ME to BE and make you all you will ever need to become.  With His LORDSHIP they will experience all the sum of all the parts they need and my Fully Experiencing Him as LORD they would find “the whole is greater than the sum of all the parts!” They would also experience years of fullness and victory that their individual days may never know!  HE IS THE LORD OF THE WHOLE THAT THEY NEED! THE LORD OF THE SUM OF ALL THE PARTS.  THE LORD OF LIGHT; LIFE; LIBERTY; AND PERFECTING LOVE.  What else could we need?

 

 Posted by at 3:40 pm

“Mankind has it again…the unyielding despair of death!”

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Sep 022018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Mankind has it again…the unyielding despair of death!” 

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     Several years ago, a young medical student graduated and moved to a small town to begin his practice.  He so wanted to be a success in helping people with their multi-faceted maladies.  He had dedicated his life to this very cause.  An old man was his very first patient.  The young doctor wanted so to make a very good first impression.  The old man listed all of his ailments and waited for the Dr. to give him his diagnosis.  After a long examination the young doctor had no clue what was wrong with his patient.  The doctor asked him, “have you ever had this before?”  The old man replied, “yes many times!”  The doctor said, “well…it looks like you have it again!”  When the world tries to figure out what in the world is wrong with mankind…we have to come to the conclusion that we definitely have the malady again.  Every person…every generation…we all have the same disease that brings about the same result…death.  God warned man to avoid the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  God warned the first couple do not eat of that tree…for the day you eat thereof…”in dying you shall die!”  (the Hebrew is quite expressive-“you will die that moment spiritually…a process of dying physically will set in, and if not cured the end result will be eternal death!”).  Redemption in Jesus Christ is the only answer to this malady.  But keep in mind that the devil denied that sin would bring forth death.  He told Eve, “You shall not surely die!”  But every since that first eventful encounter-as the Book of Romans tells us “death has reigned over mankind“.

Man has written much about this enemy that has us in its grip.  “April is the cruelest month” begins the first line of T.S. Eliot’s poem Wasteland.  His poem is thought to be a portrayal of universal despair, where we lie in wait between the unrelenting force of spring and the dead of coming constant contrast of winter!  In the bold display of life’s unending circles, one can only be left to wonder at the point of it all!  Does everything simply fade into a Wasteland of Death?  Is death the last desperate word?  Perhaps this is the very thing that Isaiah had in mind when he protested...”In the prime of life must I go through the gates of death and be robbed of the rest of my years?  For the grave cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise.  The living, the living —they praise you as I am doing today” (Isaiah 38:18-19b).  Though to a differing degree and conclusions much of our literature is unapologetically full of a sense of deep irony expressed at times in the fullness of futility.  Euripides, a writer in the fifth century B.C., expressed this futility to his generation.

 

He wrote, ” and so we are sick for life, and cling

                        On earth to this nameless thing.

                        For other life is a fountain sealed

                        And the deeps below us are unrevealed

                        And we drift on legends forever”

(Euripides, Hippolytus, Lines 195-199)

 

Shakespeare, with the lips of McBeth writes…

“tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

                        creeps in this petty pace from day to day.

                        To the last syllable of recorded time;

                        And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

                        The way to dusty death; Out, out brief candle!

                        Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player,

                        That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

                        And is heard from no more.  It is a tale,

                        Told by an Idiot, full of sound and fury,

                        Signifying nothing!” (McBeth. Act 5. Scene 5, 19-28).

 

The philosopher Nietzsche called mankind “species of the dead…a very rare species”.  Bertrand Russell said that mankind has no choice to “build their lives on the firm foundation of unyielding despair”.  Referring to the fact that death hangs over our heads like a sword of Damocles.  The world has no hope to offer us.  Atheists tell us that we evolved from death, lifeless matter, we experience life briefly, then we return to the nothingness of death!  in other words, life is an unnecessary chance interruption in the midst of cosmic death.  No wonder atheist Albert Camus maintained that in light of that kind of meaningless of life the only serious philosophical question is whether or not to commit suicide!  That has caused comedians to make light of this human dilemma.  Woody Allen said, “I am not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens!”  George Burns said, “If you live to be 100, you have got it made.  Very few people die past that age!”  (He lived to be 100 and did just that…”he died!”).  Steven Wright said, “I intend to live forever…so far so good!”  But though these comments make us laugh…they really are no comfort for our dilemma!  Even Oscar Wilde wrote the book the Picture of Dorian Gray, the story of a man who sells his soul for ceaseless youth.  Old man wrinkle cannot touch him.  Everyone marvels at his eternal youthfulness.  But his beauty hides a soul marked with greed, lust and betrayal.  A painting of him shows the condition of his inner life.  Initially the face in the painting is as handsome as he is in real life.  But his sin begins to be reflected on the canvas.  Every act of deceit, betrayal, and greed becomes another wrinkle or pockmark or twisted feature until at last the face in the painting is too hideous to bear.  He hides it in the attic.  And in the end, when death comes for him, the painting is who he becomes!

 

In the movie Shadowlands, it is shown that one of the reasons why Joy Davidman fell in love with Lewis is because of his theology of heaven and also his beautiful depictions of how Christ was an answer to man’s dilemma of sin and death.  He not only taught it in his theology, but illustrated it in his Chronicles of Narnia.  In his book the Silver Chair King Caspian lay under a clear stream.  (Dead).  The children weep.  Even Aslan weeps.  Aslan tells Eustace to get a thorn and push it into his paw.  As a result, a drop of blood falls into the stream and King Caspian leaps up, no longer old, but a young man.  He rushes to Aslan…and flung his arms as far around him as far as they would reach.  He gives Aslan kisses as a King, and Aslan gives him kisses from a Lion.  Eustace says, (concerning Caspian), “hasn’t he…died?”  “Yes”, says Aslan.  “He has died.  Most people have you know.  Even I have.  There are very few who haven’t!”  Lewis was trying to get us to focus on the eternal dimension of the present.  Many more people have died, and due to the blood of Christ, they have entered into eternal life.  Many more people have died and now live than are present on the earth currently.  Knowing that should change our perspective.  In the Last Battle, the final chapter is ‘Farewell to the Shadowlands”.  Aslan tells the children what has happened to them.  He tells them that there has been an accident.  He then tells them the truth…”Your father and mother and all of you are-as you used to call it in the Shadowlands-dead!  The term is over.  The holidays have begun.  The dream is ended.  This is the morning…the things that begin to happen to them after that are so great and beautiful that I cannot write them…we can most truly say they lived happily ever after.  For them it was only the beginning of the real story.  All their life in this world, and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read:  which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before!”  In other words, the Christian view is that we were created to live, death is a temporary interruption in this life, only to be followed by eternal life that can never be taken away- for it is the gift of life from the Christ of Calvary.  Fyodor Dostoyevsky saw this when he said, “One day man’s wisdom will not come out of books, but from the presence of the Living God, and our Earth will glow brighter than the sun, and there will be no more sadness!”  The devil moved us into the realm of death…and shouted “checkmate”.  But our King had one more move…and shouted “Life…Eternal…for all who Know Me!  I am the LORD OF LIFE AND DEATH”.

 

 Posted by at 10:24 pm

“A Real Difference in the Knowing”

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Aug 262018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “A Real Difference in the Knowing”

  By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     In her book, Diamonds in the Dust, Joni Ericson Tada illustrates a very important truth for us to understand today.  She writes, “In the early seventies, the music of John Denver took the States by storm, and I was his biggest fan.  When my sister and I learned that he was coming to our local community for a concert, I sent him one of my favorite charcoal drawings that I had made.  We invited him to dinner, and asked if we could come backstage to meet him.  To make a long story short, the closest I got to him was Row 57, Seat DD.  One year later I received a three-sentence letter thanking me for the drawing.  Looking back, I am amazed that I actually believed John Denver was my friend.  It was crazy to even think that he would agree to accept my invitation, or even want to see me!  Why would he want to come to our farmhouse for dinner?  How ridiculous!  What was I even thinking?  For although I had read all the magazines about him; memorized all the fact sheets; knew every word to every one of his songs, I did not know him! I only knew about him; my knowledge was only an illusion“.

     That can be true of us when it comes to knowing the Lord.  Saul of Tarsus excelled beyond all of his classmates in Rabbinical school in their knowledge of God and his Scriptures!  He tells us that in the Book of Galatians and Philippians.  He was able to quote Scripture at great length, and leap tall doctrines at a single bound!  He was faster in a debate and more powerful than any other Pharisee.  Every time he persecuted a Christian he thought that he was fighting for truth, justice, and the Judean way of God!  But his knowledge of God was an illusion.  He knew about God more than any of his brethren, but one day, on the way to Damascus to defend this God he thought he knew, He would be introduced to Him in a way he had never experienced before!  The one about whom Saul had studied spoke directly from heaven in an encounter that paralleled Moses seeing God face to face! Saul, like Moses, “asked who art thou Lord?”  He got the answer-“I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest, isn’t it hard for thee to kick against the goads?”  In an instant the man who had known all about God since his earliest childhood began to really know God as he had never known him before.  This new knowledge of God would transform him from a persecutor to a preacher; from a menace to a missionary!  Paul was very fond of using words as a wordsmith when he wrote his letters.  Under the inspiration of God’s Spirit, he would write words like Philippians 3:8” What is more I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my LORD, for whose sake I have lost all things!”  He would also write, “Oh that I might know Him, and the fellowship of His sufferings, and the power of His resurrection!”  He was very precise in his choice of the word for know.  The Greek language has two words generally used for “knowing”.  One is the word “oida”…which refers to kind of a head knowledge…an inherent knowledge.  Much like what Saul had learned in Rabbinical school sitting at the feet of Gamaliel.  But there is a second word-“ginosko”-a gnosis-we get our word know and knowledge from that word. It means to “know by experience!”.  Saul’s knowledge of God became a personal experience made possible by His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.  That knowledge became a transforming life changing experience for Saul of Tarsus.  It must for us also.  We may know Jesus as our Savior and Lord.  We may learn about Him as we read the Scriptures.  But the Holy Spirit that He sent to be with us, and in us forever is the one who enables us to experience Him in all His fullness.  That is life transforming.  Paul would write in Colossians-“Christ in you the assurance of glory!”   Joni concluded her article in her book with these words, more of a prayer really, “Lord, I confess that I know more about you than really know You.  I don’t want it to be that way. Never, never do I want my knowledge of you to be an illusion.  Help me consider everything a loss compared to the greatness of knowing, the surpassing greatness of really knowing You!”  That should be the heart’s desire and prayer of everyone one of us this morning! Amen?  Amen!

 

 

 Posted by at 2:14 am

THE LORD OF THE DEEPER HEALING

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Aug 192018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: THE LORD OF THE DEEPER HEALING

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     Everyone knows the name of Joni Erickson Tada.  Everyone is aware of her swimming accident that left her as a quadriplegic now for over 50 years.  Everyone knows that she has faithfully served the Lord; sang at Billy Graham crusades; Spoken at the Pastor’s Conference at Moody Bible Institute; Painted beautiful pictures with the brush in her mouth; and many have read her books that glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are aware that recently she was diagnosed with cancer, and has been battling that with chemotherapy and radiation.  What you may not know is what her deep reflections of all these trials have been these many years.  She recently shared her testimony at Moody Church.  Her testimony was quite revealing.  It is our guest Perspective this morning.

 

As Joni was wheeled to the podium she read the story of Jesus healing the paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda in John 5.  As she read the words “this lame man had been paralyzed for 38 years” (she said, ” I wonder what he thinks of 46″-the conference was 5 years ago).  Then Joni began her message.  She said, “after my swimming accident that left me a quadriplegic, while I was still in the hospital, friends would come in and ask me what Scripture could they read for me.  I always had them read this passage.  I loved the part where He asked him, ‘do you want to get well?’…then in a display of His power Jesus commanded, ‘Get up and walk’, and he did!  When my friends read that passage I cannot tell you how many times I would strain my muscles, trying to make them move, and sing a hymn I had learned as a child, ‘Savior, Savior, hear my humble cry.  While on others thou art calling, do not pass me by’.  But I never got up out of that bed and walked!  It seemed back then that Jesus had indeed passed me by!  I was released from the hospital and went to live with my sister on her Maryland farm.  One morning while she was being my care-giver we heard that Kathryn Kuhlman, (the Benny Hinn of that day), was coming to Washington, DC. at the Washington Fulton Ballroom.  I had to go.  I wanted a good seat up front.  This was my chance at the Pool of Bethesda.  But we were escorted over to the wheel-chair section with a number of people with crutches, canes, walkers, and wheel chairs.  We all waited with great anticipation.  The lights dimmed.  A spotlight came on the stage, and out came Miss Kuhlman, in her long sweeping white gown, to a crescendo of organ music.  After some hymns and music, the spotlight moved to a far corner of the ballroom where there was something going on…people getting healed?  It appeared so!  We kept waiting for the spotlight to come over to the wheel chair section.  Please come over here!  I know we are the hard cases, but please come over here!  The spotlight never came.  Soon the ushers came to escort us out of the wheel chair section to the elevators so we would not clog the hallways as the crowds would be dismissed.  I listened to the organ music still play as I sat number 15 in a line of 35 disabled people to board the elevator.  I thought…’something is wrong with this picture.  What kind of Savior?  What kind of healer, what kind of deliverer would refuse the prayer of a paralytic?’  When I got home I soon felt this spirit of bitterness sweep over me.  No one could do anything right for me.  Jesus the healer felt so distant.  Yet even in the bitterness I could not but help sing…’abide with me, fast falls the eventide, when darkness deepens, Lord abide with me’. Somewhere in that darkness i cried out to God, ‘If I… If I can’t live this way, then Jesus you are going to have to do it for me!  I can’t do this quadriplegia. Please show me how to live’. 

 

 

 

     Of course, I was still interested in healing.  I still wanted to know what God’s word said about it.  One day, while reading Mark chapter one, I read how Jesus healed the sick and disabled til way past sunset.  The next morning the crowd returned.  They looked for Jesus but He could not be found.  When they found Him, He was at a solitary place.  They told him about the crowd that was so desperate for his physical healing.  In verse 38 Jesus said, ‘Let’s go somewhere else, to the nearby villages, where I can preach there because this is why I have come!’  That’s when it hit me!  It is not that Jesus did not care about all those disabled and sick people.  He did.  But that was not his only focus.  He came to preach the gospel.  A gospel that offered something deeper than physical healing.  He offered a healing that went to the deepest need of man-spiritual healing…being made completely whole! No wonder I was so depressed.  I had been coming to Jesus just to get my problems and paralysis fixed!  Jesus cares about suffering people.  He spent most of His time on earth relieving it.  But the same Gospel of Mark that told me of Jesus healing blind eyes told me of him telling some to gouge out the eye if it leads you into sin and away from Him.  I now got the picture.  Physical healing was always important to me, but to God my soul had always been the bigger deal.  I began searching for a deeper healing.  I began to pray Psalm 139 ”Search me oh God and see if there be some wicked way in me!”  Cleanse me from sin and set me free!  Every since then God has been answering my prayer for deeper healing!  So now you will hear me often quote from the Reformed Episcopal Church Book of Common Prayer which reads, ‘Almighty God, we have erred and strayed from Thy ways like lost sheep, we have followed too much the devises and desires of our own hearts.  We have offended against Thy Holy Law, we have left undone those things we ought to have done, and have done the things we ought not to have done.  There is no health in us!’ I began to pray for that kind of spiritual health!

 

     Some time ago Ken and I had the chance to go to the Holy Land.  As we were going to the Old City of Jerusalem Ken pushed my chair down a cobble stone road, to the right was the Temple Mount, and to the left…to the left… was the Pool of Bethesda!  I said, ‘Oh Ken you don’t know how many times I have had a vision of being right here.  I leaned on the guard rail.  Ken had to go down to the cisterns to see if there was still any water that would fill it.  While I was left alone with my Savior, with tears running down my face, I prayed, ‘Oh Jesus, thank you, thank you for a no answer to my request for physical healing.  You knew what you were doing.  Your deeper healing has purged so much sin, so much selfishness, so much bitterness, I know I have a long way to go, but I am not the Joni I was yesterday, and I want to be the Joni you want me to be! I would not trade it for any amount of walking’.  That is the deeper healing.  That is the real healing.  So, if you need healing, and you see yourself maybe number 15 in a line of 35 people waiting for your problems to be fixed, and he doesn’t remove your physical suffering, look deeper.  Let God give you strength for each day.  Let Him heal you from the inside out…let Him transform you from glory to glory.  That is the deeper healing…and one day it will be complete in every way, not in just a temporary way.  Choose the deeper healing!”

 

 Posted by at 2:12 am

“The RSVP of Salvation”.

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Aug 122018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The RSVP of Salvation”. 

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     In Acts 16:30 the Philippian Jailor asked one of the most important questions that anyone, at any time, can ask and answer…”What must I do to be saved?”  The Apostle Paul gave him a clear and concise answer-“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved!”  The word believe is the Greek word “pisteuo” and means to “have faith in”…“to put your full trust in”…to “commit yourself to Him to be and do what he promises to do”.  John, in the very beginning of his gospel says, “As many as received Him, He gave the privilege of becoming children of God” (John 1:12).  The word receive is the word-“lambano” which means to “take or receive to oneself”.  A synonym is to “accept”.  Jesus would later tell Nichodemus that he “must be born again”…and then explained this to be an action that happens by the power of the Holy Spirit when a person welcomes the love of God into their life.  Jesus said, “God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son that whosoever believeth in Him should not person, but now have as his possession eternal life”.  He then made it clear that condemnation only comes to those who reject that free gift.  In Romans 3:23 Paul explained that the wages of sin is eternal death.  But then in Romans 6:23 said the “gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ His Son”.  In chapter 10 he explains that the way that gift becomes the possession of an individual is “by believing with your heart, and confessing with your mouth the Lord Jesus”. (Rom. 10:9-10).  He then makes it as simple as it can be made-“whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved!”.  The way of salvation is to acknowledge to God, with the prayer of confession and faith, that you receive the gift He has extended to you through the person of His Son and Savior Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, “He that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out“…that is “turn away”.  (John 6:37).  That is why when the thief on the cross asked for mercy-he was assured by Jesus to accompany Him to heaven that very day!  Jesus Himself said, “Rejoice that your name is written in heaven, (Perfect tense)- and will keep on remaining that way forever!” (Luke 10:20).  The best illustration of the importance and simplicity of the response to receive salvation is something I heard David Jeremiah share a few years ago.  Let me share it with you.

He told the story of a professional singer named Ruthanna Metzger.  Ruthanna was asked to sing at the wedding of a very wealthy man.  According to the invitation, the reception after the wedding was to be held on the top two floors of Seattle’s Columbia Tower, the Northwest’s tallest skyscraper.  She and her husband Roy, were so very excited about attending the wedding, and really looked forward to the reception and dinner that would follow in such an exquisite location.  She sang at the beautiful wedding.  It was so appreciated by the Bride and Groom, and all the family and friends.  Now to the reception!  At the reception, waiters in tuxedos offered luscious hors d’oeuvres and exotic beverages.  The Bride and Groom approached with a beautiful glass and brass staircase that led to the top floor.  Someone ceremoniously cut a satin ribbon draped across the bottom of the stairs.  The announced that the wedding feast was about to begin.  Bride and Groom ascended the stairs, followed by all the guests.  At the top of the stairs, a maitre d’, with a bound book greeted the guests outside the doors.  “May I have your name please?”  “I am Ruthanna Metzger and this is my husband Roy!”  He searched the “M’s” and responded, “I am not finding it.  Could you spell it for me?”  Ruthanna spelled her name clearly and slowly.  The maitre d’ looked up and said, “I am so sorry, but your name is not here on the list!”  “There must be some mistake” Ruthanna replied, “I sang at the wedding.  I am the Wedding Singer!”  The gentleman answered, “I am so sorry.  I believe you…BUT if your name is not on the list…I cannot permit you to attend the banquet!”  He motioned for the waiter, and said, “Please show these people to the service elevator please!’  The waiter led Ruthanna and Roy to the service elevator, ushered them in, and pushed G for the parking garage.  After locating their car in the parking garage, and exiting into traffic, they drove in silence for several miles.  Finally, Roy reached over and put his hand on Ruthanna’s arm.  “Sweetheart, what happened?”  Ruthanna, answered with such disappointment and embarrassment, “When the invitation arrived I was so busy.  I meant to send it back, I really did.  BUT I NEVER DID RSVP!”    Ruthanna started to weep uncontrollably, not because she had missed the most lavish banquet she’d ever been invited to, but because she suddenly realized what it will be like for some people some day who fail to RSVP TO THE GIFT OF SALVATION WITH FAITH IN JESUS AS THEIR SAVIOUR, and they will be shocked when they are ushered out of the presence of God forever, when they could have entered in with the simple “yes of faith” to God’s gift!  DON’T FAIL TO RSVP Eternity’s greatest invitation!

God always keeps His promise!  Several years ago, I heard a dramatic story of cross country skier Robin Sax.  At 31 years of age he planned to ski 100 miles cross country in the Yosemite National Forest.  He planned on starting on the crest at 10,000 feet and ski up and down that elevation for a distance of 100 miles.  The date was April 23, 1986.  He began his trek.  All was going as planned until he took an ill-advised short-cut.  He began to tumble down the icy side of the mountain head over heals, finally coming to rest in a snow bank.  His foot was dangling and flopping uselessly from his right leg.  He knew he had to get help, so he dragged himself through the snow courageously for 10 days!  He finally collapsed and gave up-figuring he would now die in this white frozen wilderness, never to be found!  After 10 brutal days, by chance, John Steinmetz, a Park Ranger came skiing by and saw Robin lying lifeless in the snow.  He rushed to him, finding him barely alive, and marked a map pinpointing their location.  He then told him-“do not move!”  “Stay right here!”  “I am going to get help for you!”  Robin Sax’s life depended on the promise of a man he did not know.  He had to trust the words of someone he had never met.  Could he believe the promise of this stranger?  Every impulse within him wanted to keep on dragging himself to a destination of safety.  Somehow, somewhere, Someway.  But he invested all his trust in the promise of John Steinmetz.  Friday passed…nobody came.  Saturday passed…nobody came.  Most of Sunday passed…still nobody.  Finally, late Sunday evening…John Steinmetz and the rescue party arrived.  Robin Sax was saved.  His friend kept his life-saving promise!  You and I are helpless to save ourselves.  God has made a way through His Son’s death on the Cross of Calvary.  The gift of forgiveness and eternal life is available to any and all who will receive it by their RSVP of prayer to God with the “yes of faith”.  Trust Him-God will eternally keep His promise.  But He will never force His love, His Son, or Himself on anyone.  As C.S. Lewis says, “There are two kinds of people in the world.  Those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’ and are saved.  And those who refuse, and God says to them, ‘thy will be done!’ and they are lost forever!”  Don’t make that eternally regretful mistake!  For Heaven’s sake-For your own sake!  I beg you-“PLEASE RSVP HIS SO GREAT SALVATION!”

 

 Posted by at 11:07 pm

“HELPING GOD PAINT HIS MASTERPIECE”

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Aug 052018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE:  “HELPING GOD PAINT HIS MASTERPIECE”

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     The year was 1787.  A group of Baptist Clergymen were meeting to debate whether it is the responsibility and duty of Christians to spread the Gospel.  William Carey, after reading the sermons of Jonathan Edwards, and the Diary of David Brainerd, was feeling an overwhelming call to share the Gospel with those who desperately needed to meet the Savior.  He was trying to enlist others to join him in the Divine endeavor.  It was at that meeting, that a very hyper-Calvinist Baptist Clergy, by the name of John Collett Rylands, told William Carey, “Sit down young man, when God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it without your help or mine!”  That statement did not dissuade William Carey and neither should it give us hesitation.  In Matthew 9 we read about Jesus weeping over the multitudes of lost and perishing people of His day.  He was visibly shaken and wept over them.  He then told his disciples to join Him in the activity of praying for, and persuading those very people to come to Him.  He issues the same challenge to us today.  What a privilege for us.  Followers of Jesus are co-laborers with Him in His ministry of Seeking and Saving those who are perishing!  But we must, as true followers of Him, possess the qualities that were in the nature of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

John Ruskin, famous poet and art critic, once said that a great artist must possess three qualities: (1) An eye to see and appreciate the beauty of the scene that he desires to capture and catch on canvas.  (2) A heart to feel and register the beauty and the atmosphere of the scene (3) A hand to perform -to transfer to canvas what the eye has seen and the heart has felt.  Those same qualities were resident in our Savior and necessary to all who would follow and join Him in the work of taking broken pieces and building them into beautiful possibilities.  Jesus focused on those who needed Him.  He had an eye that identified them.  He never looked past them!  He focused on them.  The images He saw broke His heart!  The eyes that saw them soon filled with tears of compassion for them.  Jesus saw the blind men; Jesus saw the lepers; Jesus saw the deaf; the dumb; the paralytics.  He saw the hated publicans; he saw the prostitutes; He saw the woman at the well; He saw the demoniac at Gadara; He saw Zacchaeus in the Sycamore tree; He saw the woman with the hemorrhage; He saw the Centurion weeping over his child that had died.  Someone has said, “Eyes that look are common-Eyes that See are rare!”  Jesus had eyes that saw.  Really saw!
But what Jesus focused on moved Him to feeling.  They broke His heart!  Matthew 9:36 says “When He saw the crowds-He had compassion on them!”  The word compassion means “to feel with”.  Their needs touched Him deeply. The disciples were known for being able to see the needs of people but not moved to compassion.  They could ignore the woman with the issue of blood.  Jesus said, “Who touched me”.  They were bothered by the “little Children” and wanted to keep them away from Jesus.  Jesus said, “Permit them to come to me, forbid them not!”  They wanted to send the multitudes away hungry, but Jesus said have them sit down, “we must feed them and meet their needs!”  That is our compassionate Savior!  A.W. Tozer said that the problem with not focusing on the desperate needs of others, and not feeling compassion for their needs is because we are too occupied with our own needs and happiness.  He called it “our irresponsible pursuit of happiness” that keeps us preoccupied with ourselves.  We would rather enjoy our own happiness than to be gripped by other people’s needs, hurts, and sorrows.  We never focus on them, so we never feel with them. Our Savior did both!  Someone has said that television and movies have had a deleterious effect on the emotions of our generation.  Constant familiarity with scenes of tragedy, horror, violence, and simulated emotion has made our emotions so superficial that it is difficult to feel anything deeply. We see terrible scenes, are shocked for a moment, then turn to the next program.  We have grown emotionally superficial, and that has spilled over into our spiritual lives!  Not Jesus.  A weeping God!  What a concept!  Tears streamed down His cheeks, as His heart broke for the very ones He would be crucified to save.

Jesus’ focus led to His feeling.  But His feeling led to His forming.  He in turn moved into action.  He had an eye to focus; a heart to feel; and a hand to form and perform a work that would transform lives.  Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan.  There was a victim in great need-perishing.  The priest saw the victim-but “passed by on the other side”.  The Levite too saw him, stopped and looked closer, but “passed by on the other side”.  But Jesus said, “The Samaritan” (and his enemies called Him a Samaritan-see John 8), had compassion, stopped and did all that was necessary to save the fallen one.  Then He told all of us to “go and do likewise”.  Without the eye to “focus”; the heart “to feel”; and the hand “to form, perform, and transform” we will not follow through.  Jesus told His disciples “to look on the fields” white and ready to harvest.  Then pray for laborers.  It is hard to pray for laborers and not be willing to join the workers who are involved in the good harvest.

The prophet Jeremiah talked about sinners lives being “vessels that are marred”.  But he emphasized that the Potter does not throw the broken marred clay away.  He is gifted at taking those broken, marred, fragile clay pots and transforming them into beautiful and useful vessels again by the touch of the Potter.  (See Jeremiah 17).  Paul picked up on this theme when He talked of Salvation in Ephesians 2:8-10.  In verses 8-9 he states, “For by grace ye have been saved, through faith, not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast”, But he doesn’t stop there.  Instead he says that those “saved by grace” are God’s “workmanship”.  That word is beautifully expressive.  It is the Greek word “poema”.  The word means a “piece of artwork”.  A poem; a sculpture; a picture; something created that reflects the nature and skill of its creator.  When our lives are formed, conformed, transformed by the hand of God we become His masterpieces.  Our new lives bring Him great glory.  As the heavens reflect the glory of God as His creation; so our transformed lives as “new creatures in Christ” bring Him glory.  C.S. Lewis understood this when he said that “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which if you saw now would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.  All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations…immortal horrors or everlasting splendors” (Weight of Glory).

If we have those three ingredients-eyes to focus; heart to feel; and hands to touch and form we can be co-laborers with our Savior in winning people to Him by the transforming Gospel.  Instead of listening to John Rylands tell us “God will do it without us”.  Let’s make ourselves available so that He can do it with us and through us.  Someone has said, “Without Him we can’t-Without us He won’t!”  The answer-We Can Do It Together!

Several years ago I heard Charles Swindoll tell the story of a mother who took her young child to hear Padereski, the famous Polish pianist that was performing at a black-tie affair.  She wanted her son to hear him perform so that he would be impressed with what he could become.  But he got weary of waiting and squirming restlessly in his seat.  While his mother was talking excitedly with the person seated to her other side-the boy disappeared.  Strangely drawn by the ebony concert grand sitting majestic and alone in the center of the stage-he made his way to it and sat down on the tufted leather stool, placed his small hands on the black and white keys and begin to play “chopsticks!”  The crowd reacted- “Get that boy away from there!”  “Where’s his mother?”  “Somebody stop him!”  Backstage Paderewski heard the uproar and the sound of the simple tune.  When he saw what was happening he hurriedly made his way to the stage, walked up behind the lad.  He reached his arms around him and began to improvise a countermelody.  As the two made music together the master pianist kept whispering “Don’t quit. Keep going”.  Together they made music that amazed the audience.  So with us!  With his touch together we can make a beautiful masterpiece!

 Posted by at 11:06 pm

“The Cross is in the Cross-Hairs!”

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Jul 292018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The Cross is in the Cross-Hairs!”

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     This week I received a video from an Evangelist friend of mine, Dr. Winston Mazakis.  It was a video that showed a group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, demanding the removal of Christian symbols from a Chapel of the East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma.  The school, intimidated by the threat of a law suit, agreed to comply.  But after seeing the response of Christians from all over the world they have halted the removal and are having a committee study their options.  Currently, they are still there one year later.  But the battle is not over.  There is a hatred for public display of Christian symbols, especially demands to remove the cross from a military site at Mt. Soledad and Camp Pendleton in California.  This is just the beginning.  It is good for Christians to let their passion and devotion for the Lord, and His Cross to be known.

It made me think of three of my favorite quotes about the cross.  One is by Brennan Manning.  He is discussing the indignity of the Cross…yet it being the greatest display of the Love of God, this is what he said, “But the answer seems to easy, too glib.  Yes, God saved us because He loved us.  But He is God.  He has infinite imagination.  Couldn’t He have dreamed up a different way of redemption?  Couldn’t He have saved us with a pang of hunger, a word of forgiveness, a single drop of blood?  And if He had to die, for God’s sake-For Christ’s sake-couldn’t He have died in bed, died with dignity?  Why was he condemned like a criminal? Why was his back flayed with a whip?  Why was His head crowned with thorns?  Why was he nailed to wood and allowed to die in frightful, lonely agony?  Why was the last breath drawn in bloody disgrace, while the world for which he lay dying egged on his executioners with savage fury like some kind of gang rape by uncivilized brutes in Central Park? Why did they have to take the very best?  One thing we know-we don’t comprehend the Love of Jesus Christ.  We see a movie and resonate to what a young man and woman endure for romantic love.  We know that when the chips are down, if we love wildly enough we will fling life and caution to the winds for the one we love.  But when it comes to God’s love in the broken, blood-drenched body of Jesus Christ we get all antsy and start to talk about theology, divine justice, God’s wrath, and some begin to turn toward the heresy of universalism!” (The Ragamuffin Gospel 1993).  That Cross is the public demonstration of the genuine love of God that would give His best to save us from our worst!

The second quote I love about the cross comes from Malcolm Muggeridge.  He came to Christ late in life.  He talks about how the cross always had a drawing power for him, and that he should have yielded to the Christ of the Cross at a much earlier age and would have had more years to love and serve Him.  He wrote, “I would catch a glimpse of a cross, not necessarily a crucifix; maybe two pieces of wood accidently nailed together, on a telegraph pole, for instance–and suddenly my heart would stand still.  In an instinctive, intuitive way I understood that it was something more important, more tumultuous, more passionate. was at issue than our 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.  This symbol, which was considered to be derisory in my home, was yet also the focus of inconceivable hopes and desires…As I remember this, a sense of my own failure lies leadenly upon me.  I should have worn it over my heart:  carried it, a precious standard never to be wrested out of my hands…it should have been my cult, my uniform, my language, my life.  I shall have no excuse:  I can’t say I didn’t know.  I knew from the beginning and kept turning away” (Jesus Rediscovered. pp.24-25).  His cross should be our cult, our uniform, our language, our life!  But the last quote lets us know that it is not just a private devotion to the cross.  The cross was public!  Very public.  It must always remain that way for us!

George MacLeod reminds us of that very fact.  He says, “The cross must be raised again in the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the Church, (or the University chapel steeple), I am claiming that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves, on the town garbage heap, at a crossroads so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.  At the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble, because that is where He died, and that is what He died about…and that is where His followers ought to be, and what His followers should be about!”  (Only One Way Left. 1966 p. 38). Amen!  Keep cherishing “that Old Rugged Cross!”

 

 Posted by at 11:05 pm