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“The Stump That Changed the Course of History”.

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Feb 252018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The Stump That Changed the Course of History”.

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     This past Wednesday morning one of God’s most distinguished servants went home to be with his Lord.  The Evangelist William Franklin, (Billy) Graham passed away at the age of 99 years old, at his mountain home in Montreat, N.C.  He finally lost his battle to Prostate Cancer and Parkinson’s disease, and like the Apostle Paul he “finished his fight, run his race, and was ready to depart”.  He had come to Christ at a tent revival at the age of 16.  From an early age he answered God’s call to the ministry in the 1940’s and took his Lord and His Bible to the ends of the Earth for six decades! Susan Harding, anthropologist at the University of California-Santa Cruz gave the best concise biographical summary of Billy’s life and ministry I have ever heard.  She said, “He was homespun, historical, and newsworthy all at once.  He could span the times from Christ to today, from the globe to you, all in one sentence…He was so real, he made Christianity come true for our generation”.  Billy Graham was America’s Pastor.  He was a friend to 12 Presidents, from both parties, and offered love, support, guidance, and counsel in a non-partisan way.  He was the first one that President Bill Clinton called on to be there after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.  Wednesday Karl Rove talked about how the only plane allowed into America’s air space after 9/11 was the plane that brought Billy Graham to the Washington D.C. National Cathedral to speak at the Memorial Service there on the morning of September 14th.  Rove said, “It was my job to meet Graham in his room and convey him through the back halls of the back elevators of the hotel to this ballroom so we got to spend a few moments together…I have only twice in my life felt I was in the presence of the eternal.  Billy Graham was the first time and there was something about the man.  He was gentle, he was kind, but there was something serious about this man that gave off the sense of godliness and service.  The other person to have such an impact?  Pope John Paul…They both were deeply filled with the Spirit of our Lord”. 

     We have all lived with the Presence of our Lord, incarnated in the person and ministry of His true and faithful servant Billy Graham.  But we may not be aware of the fact that there was a cross road to this ministry right at its inception.  It could have gone an entirely different way, with historically different results.  In 1945 Billy Graham and a friend Charles Templeton were answering the call to help with evangelism for Youth for Christ.  They both were room mates on an evangelistic tour in Europe.  After the tour Charles decided to go to Princeton Theological Seminary to prepare for further ministry.  Billy accepted the Office of President for Northwestern College and Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  This institution was not accredited yet, and for it to be taken seriously their President would have to earn an advanced degree that would require him to take a few years off evangelistic preaching.  He was going to have to make a decision which direction he would take.  In the summer of 1949 his friend Charles Templeton came to visit him.  Charles had changed!  In the course of their conversation Charles said, “But, Billy, it’s not possible for to believe any longer in the Bible…for instance, in the Biblical account of creation.  The world was not created over a period of days a few thousand years ago; it has evolved over millions of years.  It’s not a matter of speculation; it’s a demonstrable fact”.  “I don’t accept that” Billy said, “And there are reputable scholars who don’t”  “Who are these scholars?  Men in conservative Christian colleges?” asked Charles.  “Most of them, yes.  But that is not the point.  I believe the Genesis account of creation because it’s in the Bible.  I’ve discovered something in my ministry.  When I take the Bible literally, when I proclaim it as the Word of God, my preaching has power.  When I stand on the platform and say, ‘God says’ or ‘The Bible says’, the Holy Spirit uses me.  There are results.  Wiser men than you or I have been arguing questions like this for centuries.  I don’t have the time or the intellect to examine all sides of the theological dispute, so I’ve decided once for all to stop questioning and accept the Bible as God’s Word”.  Charles went on to forsake the faith he once preached, even writing a book describing his apostasy in 1996 titled Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith.  Before he left Billy, his dear friend warned him, “Billy you cannot do that.  You dare not stop thinking!  It’s intellectual suicide!”  Billy responded, “I don’t know about anyone else, but I have decided that that is the path for me”.

In August of 1949 Billy was invited to come and teach Bible Study and preach at a California Christian Retreat called Forest Home.  Henrietta Mears, famous Christian author and educator had invited him.  While there Billy was still struggling with the words of his dear friend Charles Templeton.  While at Forest Home he did a lot of Bible Study.  He kept seeing words “Thus sayeth the Lord”, “Thus sayeth the Lord” and “Thus sayeth the Lord”.  He was at a cross road.  One night he walked out into the woods.  He set his open Bible upon a stump-more an altar than a pulpit-and he cried out, “Oh God!  There are many things in this book that I do not understand.  There are some problems for which I have no solutions.  There are some seeming contradictions.  There are some areas in it that do not seem to correlate with modern science.  I cannot answer some of the philosophical and psychological questions Chuck and others are raising”.  Then he fell on his knees and being moved by the Holy Spirit he said, “Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word-by faith!  I am going to allow faith to go beyond by intellectual questions and doubts, and I believe this to be your Inspired Word!”  He later wrote in his autobiography, Just As I Am, “as he stood up his eyes stung with tears, but he felt the power and presence of God in a way he had not felt in months…a major bridge had been crossed”.  The next day he spoke at Forest Home Retreat and over 400 people made a commitment to Christ.  Henrietta Mears remarked that “he preached with authority she had never seen in him before!”  A few months later he would hold his Greater Los Angeles Crusade of 1949.  The crusade was scheduled to go for three weeks but ended up going eight weeks, with many celebrities finding Christ, and they packed out that “Canvas Cathedral” at the corner of Washington and Hill streets in Los Angeles.  That was the beginning of six decades of Crusades that would span the globe, and finally conclude in New York in 2005.

In 1955 John R.W. Stott invited Billy to come to Cambridge University in England.  He accepted the invitation, but soon regretted that.  He told Stott, “I am deeply concerned and in much thought about this mission.  I have never felt more inadequate and totally unprepared.  As I think over the possibility for messages, I realize how shallow and weak my presentations are.  I shall be relying heavily on you…”  Stott countered by inviting Billy to come and meet the great intellectual Christian apologist C.S. Lewis.  Billy arrived in Cambridge.  John arranged for him to have a private talk with Lewis at Magdalene College.  The three of them spent an hour together.  Billy later said, “I was afraid that I would be intimidated by Lewis.  But I was relieved that he immediately put me at ease.  I found him to be not only intelligent and witty but also gentle and gracious.  He was genuinely interested in our meetings”.  As the meeting ended, Lewis told Billy, “You know you have many critics, but I have never met one of your critics who knows you personally”.  In the last interview before his death in 1963, (Lewis died the same day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated), Lewis told Sherwood Wirt, the editor of Billy Graham’s Decision magazine-“I found him to be modest and sensible.  I liked him very much indeed!”  He later contrasted his apologetic ministry with the evangelistic ministry of Graham.  He wrote, “My work has suffered very much from the incurable intellectualism of my approach.  The simple emotional appeal, (of Graham), is successful.  But those who lack that gift had better not attempt it”-(God In The Dock). Billy indeed had the gift!  Still others tried to dissuade him.  One influential Churchman told Graham that he would go far if he would quit preaching all that blood stuff!  Billy said, “I determined to preach on the cross and the blood of Christ more than ever!”  Not a bad choice.  He had preached to over 215 million people in more than 185 countries.  Only eternity will reveal the number of converts that he was instrumental in bringing to the Savior.

In his book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, J.I. Packer wrote these words, “Paul, in his own estimation, was not a philosopher, not a moralist, not one of the world’s wise men, but simply Christ’s herald.  His Royal Master had given him a message to proclaim; his whole business, therefore, was to deliver that message with exact and studious faithfulness, adding nothing, altering nothing, and omitting nothing”.  He could well have been describing Billy Graham.  And what about Charles Templeton?  In 1995 Lee Strobel, in doing research for his book The Case For Faith, interviewed Billy’s friend Charles, just before his death.  Charles was in his 80’s.  He was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, but was still clear in his conversation.  Strobel asked him what he thought about Jesus Christ.  Charles told him-“He was the greatest human being who ever lived.  A moral genius…the wisest person that ever lived…His commitment was total and that led to his death.  What can anyone talk about except his greatness”?  Strobel said, “You sound like you really care about him”.  Charles continued, “Well yes, He is the most important thing in my life…I…I…I…adore Him…I miss Him.”  Strobel asked about Billy Graham.  Charles replied, “There is no feigning in him, (hypocrisy).  He believes what he believes with an invincible innocence.  He is the only mass evangelist I would trust!”    What an endorsement.  “Invincible Innocence!”  An evangelist worthy of trust.  And we have.  Because of WHO He trusted!  Well done thou good and faithful servant.  Enter into the joy of our Lord.  We can only hope to follow your example.  Thank you for the right turn at that Stump that Changed the Course of History!

 Posted by at 12:58 pm

“Destroy This Temple…and I will raise it up…forever!”

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Feb 182018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Destroy This Temple…and I will raise it up…forever!”

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     We read in the Bible that David wanted to build a house for God.  God allowed him to build a palace for himself.  David, a man after God’s own heart wanted to build God a house.  God allowed him to purchase the land for the Temple, but did not allow him to build it.  Instead, God allowed his son, Solomon to have the privilege of building God a permanent dwelling place on earth-the first Jewish Temple.  Even though God made it plain that a “house made with human hands could not contain him”-He chose to accommodate Himself and display all of His glory in that first Temple.  You can read in Scripture about the awesome Temple that Solomon built and you can read of the awesome time when the glory of God came to fill the Temple (II Chronicles 7).  Then if you get the chance to read I Kings 10 you can read about the time the Queen of Sheba came to visit Solomon.  She came to see his Kingdom…to see his palace…to test his wisdom. But the Scriptures tell us that when she saw the Temple that he had built for Yahweh the LORD…the glory of it literally “took her breath away”.  She honored Solomon with a gift of gold that allowed him to add golden pillars to the temple.  That Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.  Ezekiel saw a vision of the Shekinah glory of God departing the Temple gradually in chapters 9-10-11.  Then the Temple was looted and destroyed.  Zerubbabel and Joshua rebuilt the second Jewish Temple…finishing it in 516 B.  C. It was not as glorious.  God realized that both Priests and People saw that this Temple was inferior to that of Solomon.  We read about this in Haggai 2:3-9.  Listen to these words:  “Who is left among you that saw the House of the Lord in its first glory?  And how do you see it now?  Is it not, in your eyes in comparison…as nothing?  Be strong Oh Zerubbabel.  Be strong Oh Joshua.  Be strong all ye people of the land.  For I am with you…The Desire of the Nations shall come and I will fill this house with glory.  The glory of the latter house shall be greater than the glory of the former!”  Herod the Great…to make up for the hatred the Jews felt for him because of his madness, was known as a great builder.  In 14 B.C.  He began to remodel the Second Jewish Temple.  This remodel continued on until 63 A.D.  At the beginning of Jesus ministry he cleansed the Temple.  When asked about a sign that he had the authority to do that.  He told them the sign would be that when they destroyed the Temple…He would raise it up in three days!  They went nuts!  This Temple had been in the process now for 46 years of hard construction labor.  How could it be rebuilt in three days!  Of course He was referring to the genuine Temple-of His body-the “real dwelling place of God on earth” during the days of His flesh!  As great as that Temple was now…it was inferior in every way.  According to the Jewish Temple historian Alfred Edersheim, in his book The Temple,  it did not have the original Ark of the Covenant; The Tablets of the Law; Aaron’s Rod that Budded; The Pot of Manna; or was there evidence of the continual fire of the Shekinah glory of God in that Temple.  Jesus honored the Temple with His presence.  He taught there.  He was the Desire of the Nations that Haggai had prophesied and His Presence in the Incarnation made the glory of the inferior Temple greater than that of Solomon’s Temple.  But because the nation rejected Him, He rejected them, and He would call out a New People…called His Church…and they would be the New Temple of God.  (See Matt. 16:18; Ephesians 2:19-22; I Peter 2:4-8).  In the Old Testament God had a Temple for His People.  In the New Testament God had a People for his Temple!  The Jews destroyed Jesus on the Cross!  They destroyed the real Temple of the Presence of God in the body and person of Jesus.  God raised it up in three days.  Soon the Temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed by Titus in A.D. 70.  Josephus and Tacitus tell us of a vision at that time that appeared to be armies of heaven surrounding Jerusalem in the clouds, and a loud voice saying…”the gods are leaving the Temple”.  Josephus saw that as the Glory of the Presence of God leaving before the Romans pillaged away the gold and the furniture of the Temple and used it to build the Coliseum, which was done by 79 A.D. God’s presence was then incarnate in the Church of Jesus Christ, The Living Temple of the Lord, made up of believing Jews and Gentiles, all a part of the Family of God!  Peter is giving believers the assurance that even if the Romans or anybody else decides to physically destroy this Temple, that we have a Living Hope and Inheritance In Heaven that is Eternal and Indestructible!  He said, in so many words…“Destroy This Temple and God will Raise it up forever…in Heaven”!  That is what we see in the New Jerusalem with the names of the Twelve Tribes and the names of the Twelve Apostles, and with all of our names forever written in the Lamb’s Book of Life!  Well Glory!

 

Soon all the Living Stones of the New Temple were being destroyed.  Paul was beheaded.  Peter crucified upside down.  Thomas slain with a spear in India; Simon, the brother of Jude crucified in Egypt.  Mark died in flames; Bartholomew beaten with clubs, crucified, and beheaded!  Philip stoned; James stoned by a mob, and then killed by a blow to the head; Andrew crucified too. Jerome said, “There is no day of the year unto which the number of five thousand martyrs cannot be ascribed”.  Foxes Book of Martyrs says, “Whatsoever the cruelness of man’s invention could devise for punishment was practiced against Christians…scourgings, drawings, tearings, stonings, burnings, gibbets, gallows, lions, tossing upon horns of bulls!  Notwithstanding all these continual persecutions and horrible punishments, The Church daily increased…watered plenteously by the blood of the saints!”

 

There is a letter explaining this to the Church and the pagan world.  It is the Letter to Diogenes (150 A.D.-200 A.D.)  This is what it says:  “Christians love all men, but all men persecute them!  Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again.  They live in poverty, but enrich the many; They are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything.  They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory.  A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their answer to insult.  For their good they receive punishment, but even then they rejoice, as though they were receiving the gift of life.  They are attacked by Jews as aliens; They are persecuted by the Romans and the Greeks, yet no one can explain this hatred.  Such is the Christians’ divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself”.  All I can add to that is the words of the writer of Hebrews…”The world was not worthy of them!”  (Heb. 11:38).  The Temple Destroyed becomes the Temple Eternal!  See God’s Glory In His Temple…The Church!

 

 Posted by at 12:57 pm

“What took YOU so Long?”

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Feb 112018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE:  “What took YOU so Long?”

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     In his book I Believe In The Holy Spirit, by Michael Green, he relates a story told by the renowned Indian Methodist Evangelist Dr. Samuel Theodore Kamelesan. Dr. Kamelesan had a friend who was passing out Bibles and Christian literature in the heart of Brahmin country in Southern India, in a town called Kumbbakoman.  He invited other Christians to join him.  They refused…saying “We have to live here!”  So this brave Christian took his witness for Christ into the heart of a dangerous area.  He went alone fully expecting to be killed in the line of service.  He entered the main courtyard of the main temple in the town.  He began to preach Jesus.  He had just begun when he was embraced by a Brahmin woman who asked, “Why did you not come sooner?”  He related the following fascinating story.  This rich, high caste woman, a Brahmin Hindu had been diagnosed with cancer.  She was given a very short time to live by her doctors.  So she went to Madras, in whose pleasant climate she would live out the few remaining weeks of her life.  Then she apparently died.  She was taken to the mortuary.  Lying in the mortuary-she was not dead, but was only deeply unconscious.  In this state she had a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ…who she knew nothing about.  In the vision the Lord looked upon her with love.  “If you let me live again, Lord I will give my life to you” she promised.  While she was lying in that unconscious state in the mortuary, a cleaning lady noticed a faint movement of the “corpse”.  She went immediately to the mortician…who contacted the doctor that had signed the death certificate.  The doctor examined her and found a faint pulse.  He swung into action to resuscitate the patient.  A blood transfusion was desperately needed.  The cleaning lady, who happened to be a Christian, had the same blood type, and freely volunteered to give of her precious supply.  The doctor later told the lady he had rescued, “You owe your life to the cleaning lady who gave her blood for you.”

 

The Brahmin lady was good to her word.  From that day on she worshipped Jesus only, and renounced her Hinduism.  This provoked intense opposition from the people of Kumbbakoman.  Much of the opposition and mistreatment came from members of her own family.  Her own brothers attacked her and knocked out two of her front teeth!  Her simple witness led three of the five of her brothers to Christ.  When this friend of Dr. Kamelesan began to preach Jesus in the temple courtyard she heard him.  She ran out and embraced him.  He was shocked to find a believer in such an unusual place.  There was no human proclamation used to bring this woman to faith in Jesus…Just the Holy Spirit using a vision of Jesus.  Of course the blood of the Christian cleaning lady was no accident either.  The Spirit of Life not only revived the woman, but the same Spirit caused a spontaneous remission of the cancer too, and brought her to faith in Christ.  All in all it was quite a miracle of healing and salvation.  Green, the author of the book responded…the story confirms what we say in our creed.  “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Lifegiver”.

 

How many people are there that we know who are searching for Jesus?  Their souls are tired of the life that provides no answers to the deepest yearnings of their heart.  Our Lord has chosen to ask us to be his hands, his feet, and his voice as instruments to lead others to faith and salvation.  We need to be like that friend of Dr. Kamelesan and step out in faith, come what may, and bear witness for our Lord and Savior, no matter what the risk.  We might be surprised by the number who will ask us, “where have you been?”  “Why did you wait so long?”  Let God’s Holy Spirit empower your life to show Christ.  Let Him empower your lips to share Christ.  Listen to what the Apostle Paul told the Philippians.  He wrote, “Let the Holy Spirit work out your salvation…with fear and trembling.  Let Him cause you to shine as lights in a crooked and perverse world, while you are holding forth the Word of Life”.   A transformed walk, combined with a timely word, can result in a tremendous witness to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 Posted by at 3:13 pm

“The Most Perfect Hope-Out of a Public Execution?”

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Feb 042018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE:  “The Most Perfect Hope-Out of a Public Execution?”

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     Our world has learned that civilization has failed.  Six thousand years of world history tells us on every page that our situation is hopelessly without answers.  It is only when history intersects with the Road of Calvary, and the Christ of the Cross-does that picture change for the better.  God has chosen to take the most horrible day of history and transform it into the most glorious.  Malcolm Muggeridge, the brilliant English journalist, who surrendered his life to Christ, spoke very poignantly on this subject.

 

“We look back on history and what do we see?  Empires rising and falling, revolutions and counter-revolutions succeeding one another; wealth accumulating and wealth dispersed; one nation dominant and then another.  As Shakespeare’s King Lear puts it, ‘the rise and fall of great ones that ebb and flow with the moon’.  In one lifetime I’ve seen my fellow countrymen ruling over a quarter of the world, and the great majority of them convinced-in the words of a favorite song-‘that God has made them mighty and will make them mightier yet’.  I have heard a crazed Austrian announce the establishment of a German Reich that was to last for a thousand years; an Italian clown report that the calendar will begin again with his assumption of power; a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin acclaimed by the intellectual elite as wiser than Solomon, more enlightened than Ashoka, and more humane than Marcus Aurelius.  I’ve seen America wealthier than all the rest of the world put together, and with the superiority of weaponry that would have enabled Americans, had they so wished, to outdo an Alexander or Julius Caesar in the range and scale of conquest. 

 

     All in one lifetime-gone with the wind.  England now part of an island off the coast of Europe, threatened with further dismemberment; Hitler and Mussolini…buffoons; Stalin a sinister name in the regime that he helped to found and dominated totally for three decades; Americans haunted by fears of running out of the precious fluids that keeps their motorways roaring and smog settling, by memories of a disastrous military campaign in Viet Nam, and the windmills of Watergate.  Can this really be what life is about-this worldwide soap opera going on from century to century, from era to era, as old discarded sets of props litter the earth?  Surely not!  Was it to provide a location for so repetitive a production as this that the universe was created for homo sapiens, as he likes to call himself-heaven knows why-came into existence?  I can’t believe it.  If this were all, then the cynics, the hedonists, and the suicides are right; the most we can hope for from life is amusement of our senses and then death.  But it is not all!

 

     Thanks to the great mercy and marvel of the Incarnation, the cosmic scene is resolved into a human drama.  God reaches down to become a Man and man reaches up to relate himself to God.  Time looks into eternity, and eternity into time, making now always, and always now.  Everything is transformed by the sublime dream of the Incarnation-God’s special parable for fallen man and a fallen world.  The way opens before us that was charted in the Birth, Ministry, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The way that successive generations of believers have striven to follow, deriving themselves the moral, spiritual, and intellectual creativity out of which have come everything truly great in our art, our literature, our music, the splendor of the great cathedrals, and the illumination of the saints and mystics, as well as countless lives of men and women serving their God and loving their Savior in humility and faith.  It’s a glorious record-not just of the past, but continuing now.  The books are open, not closed!

 

     The Incarnation was not a mere historical event like the Battle of Waterloo, or the American Declaration of Independence-something that’s happened, and then was over.  It goes on happening all the time.  God did not retreat back into Heaven when the fateful words-‘It is finished’ were uttered on Golgotha.  THE WORD THAT BECAME FLESH HAS CONTINUED AND CONTINUES TO DWELL AMONG US FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH.  There are examples on every hand; we have but to look for them.  For instance, the man in Solzhenitsyn’s labor camp who scribbled sentences from the Gospels that he pulled out of his pocket in the evening to keep himself serene and brotherly in that terrible place.  Then Solzhenitsyn himself-a product of this world’s first overtly atheistic materialist society who can tell us in shining words that ‘it was only when I lay there, on rotting prison straw, that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good.  Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either; BUT RIGHT THROUGH EVERY HUMAN HEART AND THROUGH ALL HUMAN HEARTS!  So bless you prison for having been in my life’.  What insight, what wisdom, acquired in a Soviet prison, after a Marxist upbringing!

 

     It may well be that Western man has turned away from the cross in favor of some illusory pursuit of happiness.  YET THE PREACHING OF THE CROSS IS INDEED FOOLISHNESS TO THOSE PERISHING, BUT IT IS STILL THE POWER OF GOD TO THOSE WHO BELIEVE IT.  OUT OF A PUBLIC EXECUTION, (THE CROSS), COMES THE MOST PERFECT HOPE!  IT IS THEN THAT CHRIST’S HAND REACHES OUT SURE AND FIRM AND LIGHT BANISHES DARK FOREVER”.  (The Crisis Of Our Time-Malcolm Muggeridge 1985).

 

Peter would agree with that.  The only hope for the world of his day, and ours, Is the message of the cross, embraced by the first century followers of Christ.  While those pilgrims suffered the persecution and mocking of the society they dwelled in, and the government that ruled over them, he reminded them that their living hope was to found only in the death, resurrection, and soon return of Jesus Christ.  Muggeridge reminds us of that same truth!

 

 Posted by at 2:05 pm

“Gentlemen…this is a Christian!”

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Jan 282018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE:  “Gentlemen…this is a Christian!”

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     Are you a Christian?  What does that mean?  In today’s world?  Where did that name originate?  In the ever-changing transition of words evolving to mean new things, can we still define “Christian”?  What did it mean in the first century world, and the twenty first century?  If we choose to identify with the name Christian, we must make sure that we reflect the intended original meaning to our twenty first century.  I am not sure we have been doing that.  Not just in our generation but even in previous ones.  E. Stanley Jones was a Methodist missionary to India in the first half of the 1900’s.  He became very good friends with Mahatma Gandhi.  In his book, The Christ of the Indian Road, he tells of that friendship, and how he asked Gandhi what he would do to win the Indian population to Christ.  In so many words the message came back-“I love your Christ…I do not like your Christians!”  That gap between Jesus and his followers was a major stumbling block then!  Kevin Max, past lead singer, and songwriter for the Christian group D.C. Talk reiterated that problem when he said, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians!  There are those who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him with their lifestyle.  That is what an unbelieving world finds unbelievable!”

 

     The name “Christian” was not the first designation of those who followed Jesus.  They were called “believers, disciples, saints, followers, and people of the Way”.  The term “Christian” was first used by pagan gentiles of the city of Antioch to describe the Disciples of Christ at Antioch.  Though some feel that it was a designation of derogatory nature, attached to the followers of Christ, who used to be followers of Antiochian pagan lifestyles, the important fact is that it was a label given by the pagans, giving us a perspective of what it was they saw as the primary characteristic of those who deserted their ranks for the ranks of Christ.  Acts 11:26 says, “The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch of Syria”. The word there is the word “Christianioi”.   It is a name that is a combination of three languages.  Christ is the Greek name of the Hebrew word Messiah…meaning “the anointed one”. The suffix came from the Latin, into the Greek-“ianioi” meaning “belonging to”, “a slave of”, or “of the household of”.  When you add this to the precise word that Luke uses for “called”, it is even more significant.  The normal Greek word for called is “kaleo”.  But the word that is used here is the Greek word-“kramatidzo”.  It refers to what people are called as a designation related to their vocation.  A person who bakes bread is “called” a “baker”.  A person whose vocation is making clothes or fitting clothes is “called” a “tailor”.  A person in Antioch who had made it their life’s business, their vocation, their life’s calling to “follow, please, imitate, serve, and testify to Christ, the Savior and Messiah” were soon designated “christianioi” i.e. “Christians”.  From a pagan perspective it was not a compliment.  But for the first believers it was a “compliment extraordinaire!” When you and I are so committed to Christ that our loyalty and devotion matches that of those first century Christians at Antioch then perhaps the designation we have chosen most often for ourselves will not be so offensive!  It will not be the hypocritical stumbling block it has become.

 

There are two pictures from Church history, around Antioch, in the Roman world of the first century, and following that better help us understand and comprehend this designation that has become a favorite of the followers of Jesus in the 21st century.  The first concerns a preacher named Ignatius.  After the book of Acts closes in 64 A.D.  and before the Book of Revelation was written in 95 A.D., there was a Pastor in Antioch named Ignatius.  He was a dynamic, Spirit-Filled, anointed preacher of the Gospel.  He was so effective that the whole population of Antioch seemed to be converting to Christ.  Emperor Trajan had to come to Antioch himself to see why emperor worship, idolatry, and pagan rituals had fallen out of favor with the majority of the population in the city of Antioch.  As he listened to Ignatius preach Christ, and saw the throngs of people turning to the Lord, from Roman idolatry he was enraged!  After giving Ignatius an Imperial Ultimatum to forsake the Christ he was preaching, and embrace the religions of the Empire, Ignatius was arrested and brought to Rome to face the Wild beasts.  Five years after Paul and Peter had been martyred by Nero; Ignatius would be subject to a new form of capital punishment.  Trajan had a new method of putting criminals to death.  He had built the majestic Coliseum.  It had been finished in 72 A.D.  Historians tell us that Ignatius was the first Christian martyr to be given the Imperial “thumbs down” and to be fed to the lions in the Coliseum.  In the midst of tiers of thousands of Roman citizens, in that Great Amphitheater, stood God’s faithful preacher!  The crowds cried out for blood.  The cages were opened, and the hungry lions rushed at the lone figure, God’s preacher, standing in the middle of that arena.  Ignatius, we are told, raised his arms out to the lunging lions, and over the sound of crunching bone and tendon, and the wild passioned screams of the blood-thirsty crowd, he was heard to say, “Now I begin to be a Christian!”  There’s that name!  There is a man that defines the name in a way worthy of His Master!  What faith.  What commitment.  What a testimony.  Can the name mean anything less today?  Perhaps in our mind it can.  But not in the mind of Christ!  Christ gave His all on Calvary-He deserves no less of a commitment from those who embrace His name today.  With that definition in mind, let us ask ourselves again-“are we a Christian?  Really?”  Like Ignatius?

 

Another faithful Christian, from the second century, was a Pastor at Carthage named Cyprian.  In writing to a friend of his in another part of the Roman Empire he says, “It is as bad world Donatus, an incredibly bad world.  But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and a Holy people who have learned a great secret.  They have found a joy that is a thousand times better than any of the pleasures of our sinful lives.  They are despised and persecuted, but they care not.  They are masters of their own souls.  They have overcome the world.  These people, Donatus, are called Christians, and I am one of them!”  One of the greatest preachers of all time was the Baptist Preacher of London in the late 1800’s named Charles Spurgeon.  Spurgeon told his members that they needed to make sure that they lived worthy of the name they called themselves!  He defined a Christian as someone to whom Christ is everything.  He said, “If Christ is not all to you…He is nothing to you!  He will never go into partnership as a partial Savior of men.  If He is something…He must be everything!  If He is not everything to you, then He is nothing to you!”

 

     Several years ago the Green Bay Packers played a terrible game and had lost badly before the home crowd in Green Bay.  They had embarrassed their Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi.  They had embarrassed the city of Green Bay.  They had stunk up the stadium!  They all sat in the locker room after the game.  The coach was eerily silent.  No one dared head for the showers until they heard from him.  Even he sat silent…seemingly at loss for words to respond to such a terrible performance for such a gifted group of athletes.  Finally he picked up a football.  They watched thinking he might chuck it at someone.  Perhaps throw it in utter frustration!  Both actions would be so uncharacteristic for their beloved coach.  Instead, he held it up for all of them to see.  He looked them all in the eye, and said, “Gentlemen…THIS….IS A FOOTBALL!”  In other words—back to the beginning.  Back to square one!  Back to the basics!

 

     When I am reminded of that story I think of a poem by T.S. Eliot, It is four lines found in Four Quartets.  It is found in his forth poem of Four Quartets, called Little Gidding.  In it he writes:

 

     “We shall not cease from exploration

      And the end of all of our exploring

      Will be to arrive where we started

      And know the place for the first time!”

 

When I think of the original meaning of the name Christian…and what it has come to mean to our casual Christian culture.  We need to go back to “where we started”  “and know the place for the first time” again!  Somebody needs to mimic coach Lombardi with this paraphrase…”GENTLEMEN…THIS IS A CHRISTIAN!”  The story is told of Alexander the Great was told that one of his soldiers was a coward.  Alexander confronted him.  He asked him, “what is your name soldier?”  The soldier responded, “Alexander!”  The great general looked at him…then in an angry tone, face to face, he told him—“change your nature…or change your name!”  Not bad advice for Christians in our generation!

 

 Posted by at 1:05 pm

“A FAITH-TESTED AND TRIUMPHANT”

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Jan 212018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “A FAITH-TESTED AND TRIUMPHANT”.

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

Dr. Adrian Rogers, Pastor of the Bellevue Baptist Church, in Memphis, Tennessee used to tell the story about a professional football player who told him this story: “When I graduated from college, my coach asked me, ‘Mike, would you help me do some scouting?’.  I said, ‘Sure coach, what kind of player are you looking for?’  He said, ‘Well, there’s the kind of guy that when you knock him down, he just stays down’. ‘We don’t want him, do we, coach?’…’No! Then there’s the kind of guy that when you knock him down, he gets back up. But if you knock him down again, this time he stays down. ‘We don’t want him either, do we coach?’  ‘No, we don’t.  But then there is the kind of guy that when you knock  him down, he gets back up; knock him down, he gets back up again; knock him down, and he gets back up; knock him down, and he gets back up again; he just keeps getting up!’ ‘That’s the guy we want, right, coach?’ ‘No-we don’t want him either!  What I want you to do Mike is find the guy who is knocking all these guys down, and sign him to a contract, he’s the guy we want!’

 

Peter, in I Peter, talks about the testing of our faith.  That testing comes in all kinds of ways.  Jesus had warned Peter about Satan wanting to sift him as wheat, to see how genuine his faith was. Peter failed the test and denied be knew the Lord. Not once.  Not twice.  But three times!  He was devastated!  He almost never got back up!  But Jesus had prayed for him-that his faith would not totally fail.  He was restored at a breakfast encounter with Jesus on the Sea of Galilee.  He then spent the rest of his days warning believers about the roaring lion, Satan, who keeps on pursuing them to devour them as prey.  He not only tells them to keep getting back up! But to resist him in the power of God.  It is not enough for the people if God to be on the defensive, but with the Armor of God, and power of prayer make an all out offensive to knock him down instead. Amen?

 

 Posted by at 1:38 pm

“YOUR LIVING HOPE OR HOPE YOUR LIVING?”

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Jan 142018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “YOUR LIVING HOPE OR HOPE YOUR LIVING?”

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

His name was Marion Mitchell Morrison. His stage name was John Wayne.  His nickname was “The Duke”. He won an Academy Award for his movie True Grit.  His acting career covered five decades. He was a survivor of my g cancer in 1964…but lost his battle to stomach cancer in 1979.  His grave marker has this epitaph…”Fro, Fuerty, Formal”-translated from Spanish means “ugly, strong, and dignified”.  So he was.  His biographer…Ronald Davis wrote “John Wayne personified for millions the nation’s frontier heritage”.  He did over 83 westerns. In 1955 he turned down the role of Matt Dillon, on Gunsmoke, and recommended his friend James Arness.  He wanted the role of Dirty Harry but conceded he was too old to really play the part. In the movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, his character (Tom Doniphan) calls Jimmy Stewart’s character (Ransom Stoddard) “pilgrim” over twenty times.  He calls him that because he is new to the West.  He doesn’t belong there or for in there.  He is, out of place.  He became famous for using the term “pilgrim”.  Some of his quotes were “take er easy pilgrim”; “don’t fret about that pilgrim”; “you’re a persistent cuss pilgrim”; “cool off pilgrim”; “good luck pilgrim”;”think back pilgrim”.

 

Peter used the term Pilgrim to describe Christians well.  They lived in a world were they didn’t belong either.  Hebrews 11:36-38 spoke of Old Testament believers as “pilgrims” and after describing their trials says “the world that mistreated them were not worthy of them”. The English Puritans chose that name for themselves based on the Hebrews 11:13 passage.   Peter told these “pilgrims” that in spite of their persecution from the world that they have a “Living Hope” in Jesus Christ.

 

One of my favorite res of John Wayne was his role of Davey Crockett in the movie-The Alamo.  He had opposed President Andrew Jackson in talk g land from the Native Americans.  As a result he lost his re-election to US Senate.  He came as a “pilgrim” to Texas to help in their struggle for independence from Mexico and intended to relocate there and run for office.  The night before the Battle he spoke these words…”when I came down to Texas I was looking for something. I didn’t know what. Seems like if you added up my life…I had some money and some medals…but none of it seemed a lifetime worthy if the pain my mother had in birthing me.  It was like I was empty.  Well I am not empty anymore.  What is important in this old world is, to hit a lick against what’s wrong and say a word for what’s right. Even if you get walloped for it.  I may sound like a Bible-beater yelling up a revival at a camp meeting but that don’t change the truth none.  There’s right and there’s wrong.  You gotta do one or the other.  You do one and you’re livin. Do the other and you may be walkin’ around BUT YOU’RE AS DEAD AS A BEAVER HAT!”  GREAT ADVICE FROM A PILVRIM TO PILGRIMS!

 

 Posted by at 1:36 pm

“The final One More Move!”

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Dec 312017
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The final One More Move!”

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     Several years ago I purchased the book The Devil by John Wesley White, Associate Evangelist to Billy Graham.  Dr. White’s book on the devil is an excellent treatise of the Biblical doctrine of Satan.  It is out of print, but you can still find a copy for a very reasonable price on Amazon.  I was fascinated by a story Dr. White told in his book.  He told the story of Chess Champion Paul Morphy visiting an Art Museum in Europe, and encountering a painting entitled “Checkmate” by Friedrich Moritz August Retzsch (1770-1857).  In the painting a chess game is illustrated.  On one side is the devil.  He has a confident grin on his face.  He is confident that he has the young man sitting across from him trapped with no way out.  The young man has a worried look on his face.  It appears the game is over and that he has lost.  White tells how intrigued Morphy was with this painting.  He studied it for hours.  Then, as White’s account goes, he called for a chess board, and told the curator of the museum that there was one more move, and that the young man could be saved after all!  White went on to say that when mankind seemed defeated by Satan that Jesus, our Master/Savior/Champion came to our rescue in His incarnation and by one last move, on Calvary’s cross cried out in victory “It is finished”, and might just as well cried out “He, (Satan), is finished”, because as Paul says in Colossians 2, at the cross Jesus triumphed over Satan, making an open show of him!  Years later I learned that the story was not quite accurate.  Truthfully the encounter, according to an article printed in the September 8, 1888 in the Columbia Chess Chronicle, a weekly publication, recounted how Paul Morphy, the world chess champion was visiting the home of Reverend R.R. Harrison in Richmond, Virginia.  The painting was hanging above the fireplace in Reverend Harrison’s home.  It was originally titled “Die Schachspeiler”- “The Chess Players”.  Morphy was so intrigued by the painting that he did observe if for a long period of time.  He told Rev. Harrison that the young man’s chess position is not nearly as hopeless as one might first imagine.  The two of them got out a chess board and set it up as pictured in the painting.  Harrison retold the story by stating that Morphy said, “I think that I can take the young man’s game and win!”  Other guests challenged him by saying, “not even you Mr. Morphy can retrieve that game!”  To the surprise of everyone, the victory was snatched from the devil and the young man was saved!  The young man was saved by the last move of the master!

 

We just celebrated the birth of our Savior.  In I John 3:8, the great Apostle John said that Jesus came in the flesh to “destroy the works of the devil”. In the Book of Revelation Satan is called Abaddon and Apollyon.  Those are the Hebrew and Greek names that mean “destroyer”.  That is what he has done from the beginning.  The root of both words means “to unloose, undo”.  Satan destroys mankind, by undoing all the good that God created in the image of God in Man.  Paul said it this way, “All have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God”.  Man, in the fall, has fallen farther and farther away from what God originally planned for us.  Undone by Satan.  But when Jesus came he came to “destroy” the works of the devil.  The Greek word destroy is the word “apoluo”.  It means to “undo”.  It is a play on words.  Jesus came to “undo” the “undoing” of the devil.  When we believe we are “set free” from Satan’s power.  We are “born from above” and made partakers of a divine nature.  The Spirit comes to dwell in us and overcome the power of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and starts transforming us through the recreation of regeneration!  At the rapture that work will be complete when we are given a glorious body fashioned like unto his glorious body (Philippians 3:20).  The job will be complete.  The undoing of the undoer!  Jesus checkmates the checkmater!  We have our victory in Him!  Someone has said, “Satan has been cross since Calvary!”  How true!

 

The Book of Hebrews tells of our victory:  “since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery”.  (Hebrews 2:14-15).  Jesus spoke of how He accomplished this.  Jesus, by the Power of the Spirit of God, cast out demons and freed men and women from Satan’s bondage.  The Pharisees said that He did it by the power of Beelzebub, the Prince of Demons.  Other times they accused Him of having a demon.  Jesus responded by saying that was a ridiculous statement.  He said if Satan cast out Satan then his house is divided.  A house divided cannot stand.  He then stated, “No man can enter a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.” (Mark 3:27). Jesus was the stronger man, who entered the strong man’s house, and through his death, undid the death that Satan plunged mankind into.  He then undid all the undoing the undoer did.  He destroyed the Destroyer!  So as we celebrate this Christmas make sure we celebrate”that one last move that check-mated our check-mater”, and gave us final victory!

 

 Posted by at 1:34 pm

Be Careful not to miss the Grand/Central Miracle of Christianity.

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Dec 242017
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: Be Careful not to miss the Grand/Central Miracle of Christianity.

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     In his book Whistling in the Dark, Frederick Buechner tells how one young Pastor had the real message of Christmas brought home to him in a real way.  This is what Buechner says, “The lovely old carols played and replayed until their effect is like a dentist’s drill or a jackhammer, the pathetic banalities of the pulpit and the chilling commercialism of almost everything else, people spending money they can’t afford on presents you neither need or want, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the artificial tree, the cornball crèche, the Hallmark Virgin.  Yet for all our efforts, we’ve never quite managed to ruin it.  That in itself is part of the miracle, a part you can see.  Most of the miracle you can’t or won’t see!  The young clergyman and his wife do all the things you do on Christmas Eve.  They string the lights and hang the ornaments.  They supervise the hanging of the stockings.  They tuck in the children.  They lug the presents down out of hiding and pile them under the tree.  Just as they’re about to fall exhausted into bed, the husband remembers his neighbor’s sheep.  The man asked him to feed them for him while he was away, and in the press of other matters that night he forgot all about them.  So down the hill he goes through knee-deep snow.  He gets two bales of hay from the barn and carries them over to the stalls.  There’s a forty watt bulb hanging by its cord from the low hanging roof.  He turns it on.  The sheep huddle in a corner watching as he snaps the baling twine, shakes the leaves of hay apart, and starts scattering it.  They come over bumbling and shoving to get at it with their foolish, mild faces, the puffs of their breath showing in the air.  He is reaching to turn off the bulb and leave when suddenly he realizes where he is!  The winter darkness.  The glimmer of light.  The smell of the hay. The sound of the animals eating.  The smell of the dung.  He is of course…in real life…AT THE MANGER!  He only just saw it!  He whose business it is above everything else to have an eye for such things is all but blind in that eye!  He who on his best days believes that everything that is most precious anywhere comes from that manger, might easily have gone home to bed never knowing that he had himself just been in the manger!  The world is the manger.  It is only by grace that he happens to see this other part of the miracle. Christmas itself is by grace.  It could never have survived our own blindness and depredations otherwise.  It could never have happened otherwise.  Perhaps it is the very wildness and strangeness of the grace that has led us to try to tame it.  We have tried to make it habitable.  We have roofed it in and furnished it.  We have reduced it to an occasion we feel at home with, at best a touching and beautiful occasion, at worst a trite and cloying one.  But if the Christmas event in itself is indeed as a matter of cold, hard facts all it’s cracked up to be, then even at our best…our efforts are misleading. The Word became Flesh.  Ultimate Mystery born with such vulnerability his life could be snuffed out with one hand!  Incarnation.  It is not tame!  It is not touching!  It is not beautiful!  It is uninhabitable terror!  It is unthinkable darkness riven with unbearable light.  Agonized laboring led to it, vast upheavals of intergalactic space/time split apart, a wrenching and tearing of the very sinews of reality itself.  You can only cover your eyes and shudder before it, before this:  ‘God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God…who for us and for our salvation’, as the Nicene Creed puts it, ‘came down from heaven’ “  In his book, Faces of Jesus, he adds, “The incarnation is a kind of vast joke whereby the Creator of heavens and earth comes among us in diapers…Until we too have taken the idea of the God-man seriously enough to be scandalized by it, we have not taken it as seriously as it demands to be taken!”

 

 

 

The great German Theologian Karl Barth, in his Dogmatics In Outline, says, “The nativity mystery conceived from the Holy Spirit and born from the Virgin Mary, means that God became human, truly human out of his own grace.  The miracle of the existence of Jesus, his ‘climbing down of God’ is the Holy Spirit and Virgin Mary. Born of the Virgin Mary means a human origin for God.  Jesus Christ is not only truly God; he is human like every one of us.  He is human without limitation. He is not just similar to us, He is one of us!”  C.S. Lewis is even more emphatic about how we should see the Birth and Incarnation of our Savior.  He writes, in his book Miracles, these vital words, “The Central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation.  They say that God became Man.  Every other miracle prepares us for this, or exhibits this, or results from this.  Just as every natural event is the manifestation at a particular place and moment of Nature’s total character, so every particular Christian miracle manifests at a particular place and moment the character and significance of the incarnation.  There is no question in Christianity of arbitrary interferences just scattered about.  It relates not a series of disconnected raids on Nature but the various steps of the strategically coherent invasion-an invasion which intends complete conquest and occupation.  The fitness, and therefore credibility, of the particular miracles depends on their relation to the Grand Miracle; all discussion in isolation from it is futile!”  He also speaks to lowly condescension we often fail to comprehend with the Incarnation.  In The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, he writes, “God could, had He pleased, have been incarnate in a man of iron nerves, the Stoic sort who lets no sigh escape him.  Of His great humility He chose to be incarnate in a man of delicate sensibilities who wept at the grave of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane.  Otherwise we should have missed…all the all-important help of knowing that He has faced all that the weakest of us face, has shared not only the strength of our nature but every weakness of it also, except sin.  If He had been incarnate in a man of immense natural courage that would have been for many of us almost the same as His not being incarnate at all!”

 

     Charles Dickens observed, “It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a Child Himself!”  Lewis gave a final thought about His coming down from heaven that is probably most significant.  He wrote in Mere Christianity, “The Son of God became man to enable men to become the sons of God”.  That is what happens when He is Born in Us during this season.  Come Down From Heaven and Be Born in Us Today!

 Posted by at 3:00 pm

“Hark the Herald Angels Sing?”

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Dec 172017
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Hark the Herald Angels Sing?”

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

Singing is a vital part of the Christmas celebration.  Who has not joined a Church group to go from house to house singing carols to all who will listen and join in the festive occasion?  Many Churches celebrate the season with a choral Christmas Cantata.  Brother David and Caleb blessed us recently with a concert of some of the most beautiful Christmas music, accompanied with beautiful song, lifted up to bring glory to our Virgin Born Savior!  Some Churches even have singing Christmas tree choirs!  This is just humanity joining the angelic tradition of celebrating the Savior’s birth with song, as they did the first Christmas night, Or did they?  The Christmas hymns seem to say they did.  We sing, in O Come All Ye Faithful-“Sing choirs of angels, sing in exultation!”  In Hark the Herald Angels Sing-“Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the new born king!”  It Came Upon a Midnight Clear-“It came upon a midnight clear, that glorious song of old.  From angels bending near the earth, to touch their harps of gold!”  Angels from the Realms of Glory-“Angels from the realms of glory, wing your flight to earth; ye who sing creation’s story, now proclaim the Messiah’s birth!”  That settles it, doesn’t it?

 

But…recently I heard David Jeremiah tells a story of Pastor Andrew J. Banstra studying for a Christmas sermon called The First Christmas Carol tell of a startling discovery he made.  As he prepared his message he discovered, from the original language of the New Testament, that it never says that “angels sing”!  In Luke 2:13 it says they were “praising God” (aineo).  But it says they did their praising, “saying” (lego), not singing, (Gk. humnos, psaltos, ados”).  Dr. Jeremiah did his own study, and concluded with a quote from the great Southern Baptist Pastor/Scholar, Dr. W.A. Criswell, to resolve the question.  The quote follows:

  “Another thing which is astonishing to me is that angels never sing.  Never!  When I stumbled into that fact, it was an amazing discovery!  I had already made up my mind, before I say these things, that I am going to keep referring to angels singing, even though it is not true.  To do so is traditional.  After all, did they not sing when Jesus was born?  Always people have spoken about the angels singing when Jesus was born. ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth…’you know the angels song.  So I turned to Luke 2:13 and read, ‘ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host SAYING Glory to God in the highest’.  So it was in the book of Revelation too.  ‘And there was a great host of angels SAYING with a loud voice’.  Never in the Bible do angels sing.  Never!  They always SAY.  They are in a doxology, in a chorus, they are in a recitative, they are all together, SAYING, but never in the Bible do the angels sing!


 

 

     That was an astonishing discovery to me.  So I began reading, studying, probing and trying to find out why angels do not sing, and this is the best reason that I can find.  Always the redeemed sing.  God’s blood-washed sing.  God’s children sing.  But angels do not sing. Here is my conclusion:  Music is made up of major and minor chords.  The minor chords speak of wretchedness, death and sorrow of this fallen creation.  Most of nature moans and groans in a plaintive minor key.  The sound of the wind through the forest, the sound of the storm, the sound of the wind around the house, is always in a minor key.  It wails…Even the nightingales’ song, the sweetest song of the birds, is the saddest.  All this reflects the wretchedness, the despair, the hurt, the agony, the travail of this fallen creation.  But an angel knows nothing of this.  The major key and major chords are chords of triumph and victory.  Surely God has taken us out of the miry clay.  He has taken us out of the horrible pit.  He has set our feet on the solid rock and put a new song in our souls and new praises on our lips.  The angels know nothing of this! An angel has never been redeemed.  An angel has never been saved…they see it, they watch it, but they know nothing about it (experientially)…it takes a saved soul to sing!” (Expository Sermons on Revelation Volume III, p. 82-83)

 

I do not know if that is totally true, that angels do not sing at all. I usually agree with most everything that Dr. Criswell avows!  Theologians will debate this question for a long time.  It may not really matter.  If kind of smacks of the great debate during the Middle Ages, when theologians argued over “how many angels could dance on the head of a pin!”  But I do know that they do not sing the song of redemption that flows from a redeemed and forgiven heart.  The Epistle of I Peter, our Book for January Bible Study, 2018, tells of how Angels long to look into our experience of Salvation.  They rejoice when one soul repents and has their name written forever in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  They celebrate God’s Great Grace that comes to unworthy sinners as a freed gift.  They are filled with wonder over such Grace.  But they do not know what that is like-to be forgiven sinner, saved by grace.  We can sign about being saved fully, finally, and forever!  They hear our song, but cannot sing along, for they would be trafficking in inexperienced truth!  Only you and I can do that.  What better time to do it than during the season that celebrates the inauguration of the entire saving life of Christ?  Anyone for caroling?  Let the Savior and all the heavenly host hear voices of gratitude for the precious gift of Christmas.  Paul says in I Corinthians 9:6 “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable Gift!”  Wow!  That’s reason enough to SING!  Sorry Angels!

 

 Posted by at 1:18 pm