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“A Word from God at Closing Time?”

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Feb 092020
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “A Word from God at Closing Time?”  By:  Ron Woodrum

  In 1860 French Scientist Pierre Berchelt made a startling prediction. “Within a hundred years of physical and chemical science, man will know what the atom is. It is my belief that when science reaches that stage, that God will come down, with his big ring of keys, and say to humanity-‘Gentlemen, it’s closing time!”. As we look around us, seeing the perilous times in which we live; seeing all the end-time players taking their final positions; when we read the daily newspapers and find it sounding like the pages of Holy Scripture, we realize with Berchelt that we are rapidly approaching “closing time!” Jeremiah had been prophesying for forty years that judgment was coming. As he heard the reports of the coming calamity, predicted by the LORD, being fulfilled in historic events, he too realized that “closing time” at hand. So did King Zedekiah. He called for Jeremiah, had him removed from prison, and brought to the Palace in Jerusalem. At that point, in the privacy of the Throne Room, he asked, “Is there any Word from the LORD?” For over forty years, Jeremiah had, through tears, pleaded with his people to forsake their sins, repent, and return to the LORD, and with Everlasting Love, He would forgive and restore them. If they ignored, and continued in their stubborn sin and backsliding, they would reach a point of no return, and see the LORD’S Word is true. But the people were running “helter skelter toward destruction with their fingers in their ears!” Jeremiah would repeat the message of the LORD, one more time without stuttering, to the King and the people.

Years ago, there was a new Doctor that just graduated from medical school. He took up a residence in a small town. An old man was his first patient. The young doctor wanted to make a good first impression and was very nervous as he examined his patient. The old man listed all his symptoms and ailments for the Doctor. The Doctor carefully examined and checked him, and had no clue of his diagnosis. The Doctor asked, “have you ever had this trouble before?” The old man replied, “Yes, many times!” The Doctor smiled, and said, “Well it looks like you have it again!” Jeremiah, unlike that Doctor, knew exactly what was ailing his nation. Sin, in its many varieties had infected them. They had had it before. Now it looks as if they have it again! Without returning to the LORD, there was no cure. He asked them a rhetorical question-“Is there no balm in Gilead?” The answer was “no, not for them!” Another, “Is there no physician in Gilead?” The answer, “no not for them!” Judah, was suffering from the same thing that the Roman Philosopher Seneca recognized. He said, “Men love their vices and hate tem at the same time!” He cried out, “Oh that there was a hand that could reach down from heaven, and deliver me from my besetting sin!” It seems that Judah, and our generation, is caught in the hypnotic paralysis of Satan and sin. Carlos Villas, a missionary to India, tells of an encounter he had in an Indian countryside. He came upon a bird perched on a branch on a bush. It seemed paralyzed-in some kind of hypnotic state. He looked, and close to the bird was a snake, moving slowly bobbing and weaving. The bird was so mesmerized it could not move. It was incapable of flight! Villas, fearing for the bird, decided to rush toward the snake, waving his arms and shouting. The arresting stare of the snake was broken-the bird was freed of its paralysis-and took flight to escape. That is exactly what is wrong with mankind, Villas thought-we are caught in the destructive hypnotic stare and snare of the snake-Satan.

       A.W. Tozer agrees-“The deep disease of the human heart is a will broken loose from its center, like a planet that has left its central sun and started to resolve around some strange body from the outer space which may have moved in close enough to draw it away!” Dorothy Sayers wrote of this plight of mankind many years ago. She wrote, “Recently a young and intelligent Pastor remarked to me the other day that he thought one of the greatest strengths of Christianity lay in its profoundly pessimistic view of human nature. There is a great deal of truth in what he says. The people who are most discouraged and shocked at the barbarity and stupidity of human behavior today are those who think highly of Homo Sapiens as a product of evolution. They still cling to the optimistic belief that civilization will finally so influence mankind to rid us of such behavior…for such appalling outbursts of bestial ferocity…are the utter antithesis of everything they have always believed. Now it seems unbelievable that the whole world has suddenly gone mad together”. Sayers continues, “But for the Christian this is not so! He is deeply shocked and grieved as anybody else, but he is not astonished! He has never thought highly of human nature left to itself. He has been accustomed to the idea that there is a deep interior dislocation in the very center of human personality, and you can never legislate to change man from this nature to make him good!” Jeremiah knew that well! Jacques Elull, a Christian philosopher, says it well. “Today no one knows where he is going; the aim of life has been forgotten and the end has been left behind. MAN HAS SET OUT AT A TREMENDOUS PACE-BUT IS GOING NOWHERE!” Is there any hope for our generation? Is there a word from the LORD? Who can share it? Oswald Chambers, author of “Our Utmost For His Highest”, wrote “The people that influence the most are not those who button-hole us, but those who live their lives like the stars of heaven, and the lilies of the field, perfect, simply, and unaffectedly; those are the lives that point us to salvation!” Jeremiah, with his ministry and message did just that! He was God’s Prophetic Word for Closing Time. God is looking for modern day prophets to speak a Word from Him. There is a Biblical story where Joshua encountered some prophets speaking a word to the people. He brought a concerned word to Moses. Moses asked him “where you jealous for me? Don’t be!” Then he spoke a word very relevant for our times! He said, “Oh that all of the LORD’S people were prophets! Oh, that the LORD would put His Spirit upon all of them to speak His Word to the people!” (Numbers 11:29). That is what is needed today-in our desperate hour! It’s closing time-Is there any Word From the LORD? Christian-is there?

 Posted by at 2:12 pm

“The priority of Pastor’s ministry”.

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Feb 022020
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The priority of Pastor’s ministry”.   By:  Ron Woodrum

  As we read the Book of Jeremiah, we realize that Jeremiah, the Prophet was given a very challenging assignment. He was called to speak the Word of God, to His people, who were on the verge of disaster, for not listening to the Word, and forsaking the Lord. Jeremiah felt totally inadequate for this assignment.   God told him to be faithful, and His presence would be with him during his days of ministry. That did not make his ministry any easier. They rejected his message; they rejected his ministry. They opposed him; beat him; imprisoned him; threw him in a old abandoned cistern; God then told him…”I will give you a Shepherd’s heart, according to My heart, and I will feed (“rau”-“shepherd”) with knowledge (“sakal”- “prudent wisdom”) and understanding (“deah”-“knowledge”). God knew that without that kind of heart, a shepherd’s heart, there is no way that he would be able to faithfully carry out his ministry. There were times that Jeremiah felt that God had deceived him. He decided that he would not carry out this thankless ministry. But he said, “If I say, ‘I will not mention His word, or speak anymore in His name”, His word is in my heart, like a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot!”

I have been in ministry now for over 50 years! I was licensed to preach March of 1969. Much of my early preaching was “parroting” the type of sermons that I had heard my Pastor preach. They were topical sermons. He even introduced me to a series of books called “Simple Sermons” Simple Sermons on…various subjects…Simple Sermons for Sunday Morning…Simple Sermons for Sunday Night. These Sermons were brief sermons by a masterful Southern Baptist Preacher Herschel Ford. They were good. But honestly, they were shallow. The biggest problem was, as much as I tried to make them my own, and I did, to the best of my ability, they still seemed “canned”, a lot like serving my people “T.V. Dinners!” When I went away to College, I had the privilege of meeting Preachers and Professors that did not criticize that kind of preaching, but instead showed me a better way. They introduced all of us young students to Preachers who did expository preaching. They preached the Bible. Men like W.A. Criswell; Adrian Rogers; Charles Stanley; Warren Wiersbe; Jerry Vines; J. Harold Smith. These men held the Bible in high regard, the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and they preached it with power. But they preached it with depth and dynamic. We were also taught to study the Word of God to be prepared to preach. We were taught to use commentaries…BUT NEVER TO LEAN ON TO TAKE THE PLACE OF STUDYING THE WORD OF GOD FOR OURSELVES. FOR COMMENTARIES DISAGREE ON MOST EVERYTHING. YOU MIGHT AS WELL FLIP A COIN TO GET THE REAL MEANING OF THE WORD OF GOD. God chose the two most expressive languages to reveal His word in. There are no languages more expressive than Hebrew and Greek. To learn these languages, and to use them in study is to open up a surplus of the Truth of God with such depth, that the depth can never be plumbed, by one person, in a lifetime. We were taught to “Study to show ourselves approved of God, a worker that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (II Timothy 2:15). For the first time I understood the immeasurable depths of the Word of God. I was reminded of Ezekial’s vision of the river that began to flow from out of the Temple. “It became water to the ankles; water to the knees; water to waste; then water over the head; water to swim in!” His vision was of the time in the Millennium, when knowledge of the Lord will so flood the earth, it will be “as the waters cover the sea!” (Hab. 2:14). I dedicated my life to “learning as much of the depth of the Word of God that I could”. I dedicated my life to learning how to preach it and teach it so that God’s people could be edified! After all, Paul said, God gave gifted men, “Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Pastor-teachers for the edifying of the believers, so that they could together do the work of the ministry”. (Eph. 4:11-12. Jesus told Peter, “If you really love me…feed my little lambs…tend my sheep…feed my sheep!” (John 21: 15-16). The word Pastor (“poimen”-means “shepherd”, and our English word Pastor is just the Latin word-“pastor‘-for the Greek word “poimen”. So, the Pastor’s life centers around “feeding, protecting, and leading the sheep”. Like Jeremiah, the Pastor is only to speak the Words that the Lord gives him from the Word. He is not to preach to “tickle itchy ears!” as will be the trend of the Last Days (II Timothy 4:3). I remember hearing one of the greatest Theologians the world has ever known. His name was Carl F.H. Henry. He became the key leader for the Evangelical Theological Society; He became the first editor of Billy Graham’s magazine-“Christianity Today”. At the Second Baptist Church of Houston, Texas I sat in his class, in 1987, and heard him say that soon we would see a trend away from the Word of God. People would revise worship to focus on music, praise, emotion, and entertainment, and would relegate the preaching and the teaching of the Word of God to a 15-minute addendum to the main part of the service. He went on to say-“The fate of the Bible is the fate of Christianity and even civilization itself. If the world and evangelicals forsake this Book, the end result is Society’s theological, spiritual, and moral suicide.” Woodrow Kroll, of the Back to the Bible ministry said the same thing. He said the New Millennium, with its “seeker friendly Churches” have changed the entire focus of worship, and “the casualty is the Word of God!”

This trend has made it difficult for those of us who were trained to focus our ministry on two things: Winning the Lost and Preaching and Teaching the Word of God. Paul told Timothy “preach the Word, in season and out of season” and “do the work of an evangelist”. He said that faithful Pastors “that rule well should be worthy of double honor, ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO LABOR IN THE WORD AND TEACHING”. The word labor is “kopios”-which means “work to the point of exhaustion”. Shallow teaching doesn’t require that! There was a time when such ministry was held in high esteem, and God’s people could not get enough of it! But now those who appreciate that are few and far between. There is an important truth in Scripture that we have forgotten. Hebrews 13:17 “Obey them that have rule over you, and submit themselves: for they watch for your souls, as they must give an account to God, so that they can do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you!”. The word “obey” is the word “peitho”-means “to trust, look to for direction”. There is teaching and preaching for “little lambs”; There is meat and the deep things of God that God’s people need to be kept from being “swept away by every wind of doctrine”. There needs to be a balance. Pray that I will learn to find that balance. I must preach what God leads me to preach. I must teach what God leads me to teach. But it is my goal to edify my people, and their needs, at the time. I heard Haddon Robinson, the great Homiletics teacher. He was invited to preach at a students Church. He asked him to preach on John 14:1-3. He said he prepared a very good exegetical Bible study on that text. He taught it. Afterwards he felt that the audience of older folks just wanted to hear about heaven and its comforting hope for people that were about to be going there. He said, “I should have sensed that and adjusted my message accordingly”. We need preaching and teaching that comes to the ankles; to the knees; to the waist; over our heads, enough to swim in. It just has to be at the right time. Lord I have that “Pastor’s heart, you gave me that! I need you to feed me both your knowledge and wisdom on how to share it.

 Posted by at 2:21 pm

“Dorian Gray: Portrait of A New Creation?”.

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Jan 262020
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Dorian Gray: Portrait of A New Creation?”.  By:  Ron Woodrum

  In his book, Death In The City, Francis Schaeffer, in 1969, saw with an accurate prophetic eye, what we are living out today. He begins his book with these words-“We live in a post-Christian world!” He details the enormity of what this means, and then says, “Do not take this lightly! It is a horrible thing for a man like myself to look back and see my country and my culture go down the drain in my own lifetime”. He declared the West was in the process of abandoning its spiritual heritage and is now wallowing in sin, immorality, and apostasy. (I would love to hear his opinion of where we are today). He continued, “The only perspective we can have of the post-Christian world or our generation: an understanding that our culture and our country is under the wrath of God. This is serious business. Do you think a country can throw away its Christian base and remain as it has been? Jeremiah would say, ‘you should be crying!’ “ Ravi Zacharias has picked up the mantle of Schaeffer, and in his book Deliver Us From Evil, warns of the same calamity, and tries to show us how to recover from this Evangelical disaster, though he is not optimistic that it will happen. In that book Ravi names one of the popular influences that contributed to the collapse of the Christian moral point of view. It is the book by Oscar Wilde titled The Picture of Dorian Gray. The book was written in 1890, but it still having a detrimental effect upon our culture. Zacharias says, “If there is an image that mirrors the mind of the West today, it is strikingly reflected in… The Picture Of Dorian Gray“. This familiar story describes an exceptionally handsome young man so physically captivating that he drew persistent and awe-stricken adulation of a great artist. The artist talks him into being the subject of a portrait, saying he had never seen a face more attractive and pure. When the picture is done and presented to young Dorian, he is so fixated and enraptured with his own looks that he expresses the longing to live any way he pleases, utterly abandoned to any passions and desires, without restraint, and without consequences! Any disfigurement from such a dissolute life, he wished would mar only the picture, leaving his pristine face unblemished! Like Faust of old, Dorian gets his wish granted. He launches off into a life of uncontrolled wickedness. The details of the novel shocked the Victorian culture of the 1890s both in England and France! He plumbed the depths of sin and wickedness, sensuality and even murder! All his vices left his physical appearance completely untainted. One day, he encounters that portrait he had hidden away, only to discover it bore the horror and scars of a life scandalously lived! Being afraid that someone else might see the portrait, and discover his hidden life, he buried it among goods he kept in the attic. But one day, his artist friend discovers it. Overcome with grief the artist confronts Dorian and implores him to turn from his wasteful life and seek God’s forgiveness! The artist tells him, somewhere it says, “Come let us reason together. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be white like wool.” In a fit of rage Dorian grabs a knife and kills the artist, silencing his convicting voice! The story reaches an emotional climax when, Dorian, no longer able to stand the indictment of the picture, reaches for the knife once more to destroy the portrait and remove the only visible reminder of his wicked life! The moment he thrust the knife blade into the canvas the portrait returns, miraculously, to its pristine beauty, and Dorian Gray himself lay stabbed to death on the floor. The ravages that marred the picture now disfigured his own countenance that he was unrecognizable to the servants who heard the scream of death and came rushing in to help!

The power of this book lies in the question: Can an individual or society live with complete disregard for the moral and spiritual laws that God has placed within His creation without paying the ultimate price? Can the soul of a people abandon God’s laws without paying a high price? As much as we may wish we can abandon all restraints, and go our own willful and sinful ways, calling black white and white black, there is still a high price to pay. There is a high cost to low living, our generation has even rejected the message of Oscar Wilde in this book, and lived more according to the life Wilde lived early on. Wilde is famous for advocating living however one wants to live. He said, “nothing succeeds like excess”, and “nothing is good or bad, only charming or dull”. He said, “I can resist anything…but temptation!” That kind of life left him dead at the age of 46, dying ten years after his masterpiece! What most people do not know is that Oscar Wilde, before he died, is said to have repented of his wicked ways, sought to join the Church, and was refused because of his famous wicked past! He is quoted as saying, “Ah! Happy day they whose hearts can break, and peace of pardon win! How else may man make straight his plan, and cleanse his soul from Sin? How else but through a broken heart may the Lord Christ enter in?” His prayer? “Come down, O Christ, and save me, reach thy hand down for I am drowning in a stormier sea than Simon on thy lake of Galilee”. He had made several trips to the Holy Land and was amazed at the accuracy of the Gospel stories and their accuracy concerning Christ. In one of his children’s books he tells the story of a giant whose life becomes only winter. One day a child comes and invites him to come to a garden of paradise that is Spring returned. When the giant questions who this child is, he discovers this is a child who has nail scars in his hands…and those scars are the price paid to enable the return of Spring and Paradise. Oscar Wilde wanted to write a fifth Gospel story to elaborate on the truth of that message. He never lived long enough to write that book. Maybe the miraculous restoration of the picture of Dorian Gray was parable of the picture of one Oscar Wilde finding restoration in becoming renewed in Christ? God only knows. Ephesians 2:8-9 says “We are saved by grace, through faith, it is the gift of God, not of ourselves lest any man should boast.” We seldom read Ephesians 2:10. It says, “for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works”. The word “workmanship” is the word “poema”. It means “masterpiece”. Our saved, redeemed, restored souls and lives are God’s eternal artwork and masterpiece. When we see our own portrait, and that of our society marred by unbridled sin and wickedness, bearing the high price of low living…the only hope for our generation is a new portrait, one bearing the marks of our Savior’s transforming touch. The Portrait of a New Creation! Let the new painting begin! Our world desperately needs His artistic touch! We all need to be transformed by the Love of God, from the God of Love. What a Loving Portrait He makes of us!

 Posted by at 2:30 pm

“Helping Each Other Become Everlasting Splendors or Immortal Horrors!”

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Jan 192020
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Helping Each Other Become Everlasting Splendors or Immortal Horrors!”  By:  Ron Woodrum

  In 2004 a Documentary Short Film was nominated for an Academy Award for Short Subjects. It was a film titled The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club. As a member of the Bang Bang Club, Kevin Carter was a photo-journalist documenting violence in South Africa, where he had grown up. In a few short years he had recorded countless murders, from beatings, stabbings, gunshots, and necklacing-where a victim was tied up, and a tire, filled with oil, was placed around his neck, and lit on fire, making him a human torch. Such encounters, over a period of time, made Kevin calloused to the violence that he had witnessed. He certainly could identify with the message of Jackson Browne, in the song-Doctor My Eyes!      

Doctor My Eyes have seen the years

And the slow parade of fears without crying

Now I want to understand

I have done all that I could

To see the Evil and the Good without hiding

You must help me if you can

Was it unwise-to keep them open for so long?

(The song ends-)

I hear their cries, is it too late for me?

Is this the prize, For having learned how not to cry?

  

  Kevin Carter had lived that song. But one afternoon he would have an assignment that would change his life forever-both good and bad. He was sent to the Sudan to document, in film, a nationwide famine. Exhausted after a day of taking pictures in the village of Ayod, he went out into the open bush to relax. He heard a whimpering and came across an emaciated toddler, a little girl, too weak to walk, crawling toward the feeding center. She had knelt in a heap, too weak to crawl on. As he took pictures, a plump vulture landed a few feet from the toddler, just waiting for the right moment to prey on her. Carter watched for 20 minutes, finally scaring the vulture away, temporarily, finishing his cigarette, and left. (Having learned how not to cry!). He later sent his pictures of the toddler and the waiting vulture to the New York Times. They printed it to document the Sudanese Famine. That photo won Carter the Pulitzer Prize, making him famous. But readers inundated the New York Times, and Carter’s phone with questions about the welfare of the little girl. Carter admitted that he did not know what had happened to the toddler. There arose a public outrage against Carter for not intervening to assist her and rescue her! That 2004 film documents how Carter was overwhelmed with guilt over that incident, and over all his exposure to the sufferings of South Africa. In July of 1994, he left a note saying, “I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings, corpses, anger and pain” He took his own life. There is something deep inside us that is unforgiveable for not intervening and rescuing someone, when it is well within our power to do so. When we are a person’s only hope, and we walk away, the guilt is overwhelming. As Christians, responsible for witnessing to those who are perishing, we should never forget that lesson!

Another film, one that won a lot of Academy Awards was the Titanic. The world was mesmerized by the account of that famous tragedy. But there was one personal story about the Titanic that was not documented in that famous film. It was the story of John Harper. John Harper was a Pastor and Evangelist. He was a widow, with a six-year-old daughter. He had boarded the Titanic to make his voyage to America, to become the next Pastor of the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, Illinois, but it was never to be. When the ship hit the iceberg, Harper, sizing up what was about to happen, put his daughter on a life boat for safety. He was offered the opportunity to stay with her, since she had no mother. He forfeited that offer. Instead, after securing her safety, he began to assist women, children, and others to the lifeboats. As he did that, he pleaded with every one of them to accept Christ as their Savior, in case they did not survive this tragedy. Many did accept his offer. Others rejected him. One man, after refusing the offer, was surprised when Harper took off his life jacket, and put it on the man, saying-“you need this more than I do”. Harper was heard calling out, “Women, children, and the unsaved, please get in the life boats!” He was seen swimming from one person after another, fighting hypothermia, pleading for their souls. Four years later, at a Titanic Survivors Meeting in Toronto, Canada, a young man told how Harper had pleaded with him to accept Christ, which at first, he refused, but when he asked a second time, he consented. He told the survivors-“I was John Harper’s last convert-I watched him slip away after pleading for my soul”. In London, at the White Star Line company headquarters, concerned family members waited for news to be telegraphed about the survivors. Outside the headquarters was a board with two lists: Those Known to be Saved-Those Known to be Lost. John Harper gave that a new heavenly meaning! So, can we if we learn from Kevin Carter’s story, and don’t walk away from our opportunities to be used of God to rescue the perishing.

C.S. Lewis took this responsibility very seriously, and encouraged all Christians to realize what an opportunity we have every day to make a difference for eternity. In his book The Weight of Glory, he wrote, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal…It is immortals that we joke with, work with, marry, snub, or exploit. We need to remember that the dullest, most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw them now, you would be tempted to worship, or they might become a horror and corruption such as you can only meet in a nightmare! All day long we are in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. You may influence them for Christ and they become and everlasting splendor, or fail them and they become an immortal horror…this is the most serious thing”. Kevin Carter had a calloused heart that hindered him in that kind of rescue. He was never able to forgive himself for that failure. Magnify that by eternity’s implication. Such failure is far more regrettable Christian! We are without excuse. Make an eternal difference now. God is handing out heavenly Pulitzer Prizes for those who make the effort!

 Posted by at 11:46 pm

“The Christian’s Splendid Torch”

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Jan 122020
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The Christian’s Splendid Torch”  By:  Ron Woodrum

  One of my favorite authors is Eugene Peterson. Most know him for his Magnus Opus, (his greatest achievement), which is in my estimate his authorship of his Bible paraphrase-The Message. But he has authored many books that are very insightful and relevant to the needs of our generation. One such book is his book on discipleship-A Long Obedience In the Same Direction. In that book he touches a nerve when he diagnoses the genuine problem with our world, including the Christian world. He writes, “Our attention spans have been conditioned by thirty-second commercials. Our sense of reality has been flattened by the thirty-page abridgement. It is not difficult in such a world to get a person interested in the message of the gospel; it is terrifically difficult to sustain the interest. Millions of people in our culture make decisions for Christ, but there is a dreadful attrition rate…in our kind of culture anything, even news about God, can be sold, if it is packaged freshly; but when it loses its novelty, it goes on the garbage heap. There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.” In his book Peterson relates to his readers that the answer is found in a Long Obedience. That phrase came from a very unusual source. It came from a quote from Friederick Nietzche, a German Philosopher, who was responsible for the “Death of God Philosophy”. Someone has written that-“in 1833 Nietzche said God is Dead-and in 1900, (the year Nietzche died), – God said-Nietzche is dead!” How true! Nietzche was dead…God only appeared to be in demise to a world who thought themselves too smart to acknowledge Him. But Nietzche later stated a fact that is true for all who would find meaning and fulfillment in life. He wrote, “The essential thing in heaven and earth is that there should be long obedience in the same direction; thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living!” Peterson, feeling that if God can speak through a donkey, he can use the words of His enemies and even atheistic philosophers to share His truth! Christians who find that “long obedience in the same direction…will find the kind of discipleship that makes life worth living!”

Another great Christian thinker of yesteryear diagnosed another problem that still describes the need of our world today, both Christian and non-Christian. Blaise Paschal wrote, in his book Pensées wrote, “I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay alone quietly in his room…what people want is not the easy peaceful life that allows us to think of our unhappy condition, nor the dangers of war, nor the burdens of life, but the agitation that takes our minds off it and diverts our attention. That is why we prefer the hunt to the capture. That is why men are so fond of the hustle and bustle…that is why pleasures of solitude are so incomprehensible”. We have never lived in a generation that prefers to have our attention diverted from our spiritual condition as our present generation does; to be diverted from any thoughts of what eternity holds. We keep our minds diverted from our unhappiness, and with our smart phones we never allow ourselves to ever be alone…in our room. We have e-mails; Facebook; twitter; and social media. Alone but never alone! Paschal’s comments are ever more relevant to our world and our generation. What’s the answer? How about another answer from another Philosopher, also known for being an atheist? His name is George Bernard Shaw. He was wise in some of his observances. He wrote, “There are two sources of unhappiness in life; One is not getting what you want; the other is getting it!” Very perceptive. We can all testify to that truth! George Bernard Shaw also said, “This is the true joy in life- being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. IT IS SORT OF A SPLENDID TORCH WHICH I HAVE GOT HOLD OF FOR THE MOMENT, AND I WANT TO MAKE IT BURN AS BRIGHTLY AS POSSIBLE BEFORE HANDING IT ON TO FUTURE GENERATIONS!” We Christians could learn a lot about such choices. There is no doubt that we have been invited to “use our lives for a mighty purpose!” We too could have the attitude that we do not want to be a “brief candle”. We too should lay hold of our “Splendid Torch and make it burn as brightly as possible”.

Henry David Thoreau said, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal…laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings!” If taken in a Christian perspective, Thoreau was right. If we advance in the direction of our Christian dreams and visions, we too can pass an invisible boundary…and live according to our Lord’s higher order of beings… (those Amy Carmichael called “burning out for God!”). Vaclav Havel said, “The real test of a man is not when he plays the role that he wants for himself, but when he plays the role destiny has for him!” Replace “destiny” in that quote, with “God”, and he was right on point! As we continue this series of messages on the questions of Jesus, we find the key to living in victory over the anxiety that robs us of a vital faith.

 Posted by at 12:29 pm

“How To Get a Solid Grace-Framed Agenda for the New Year”

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Jan 052020
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “How To Get a Solid Grace-Framed Agenda for the New Year”.  By:  Ron Woodrum

  I want to begin this perspective with some advice, as I often do, from one of my favorite authors-Frederick Buechner. He writes, ” it is mainly for some clue to where I am going that I search through where I have been, some hint as to who I am becoming or failing to become that I delve into what used to be”. He continues, “There’s alot to love about a New Year. Good food. Celebrating with family and friends. I love the unmarked calendar, the eager anticipation from 365 days of ‘who knows what may hold’. I value the opportunity to both recollect the past year, doing an inventory of sorts, and to anticipate the New Year!” How true! The first day of 2020 is a great opportunity for us to remember and to anticipate. Remembering is a vital practice for a growing spiritual life. Our sense of who we are is really a collection of memories of sort. Press the erase button and we don’t really know who we are anymore. Life and a healthy identity is unimaginable without a vivid memory. Why not find a quiet place today and ask God to walk with you over the year. Revisit the challenges and trials that have made you stronger. Face honestly your bad choices and failures and falls. Learn from them, asking guide to guide your steps around those incidents next year, and give you His strength for the battles you cannot avoid. How have you grown and become more or less like Christ this past year?

But while you are at it, take time to look forward too. A rear-view glance in the mirror is important but you can’t drive forward without looking ahead! I don’t mean resolutions-I think that New Year’s tradition needs a good burial! I think Christians should replace it with New Year’s Anticipation. Anticipation, with remembrance, is as vitally an important spiritual exercise as the other. In the Biblical mind the future Grace of God is always breaking into the present to let God change our lives for the better, for our good, and His Glory. As you face the New Year, if you must resolve, resolve to do less trying to be what God expects you to be, and start trusting and resting in what God has promised to make of our lives, if we will turn them over to Him. The word “promise” comes from the latin word “promittere”. It comes from two words-“pro”- meaning “forth” and “mittere”- meaning “to send”. Prosmises are God’s packages of Grace sent from the future; they are declarations which annnounce the coming of a reality that does not yet exist today! But on the guarantee of God they will! He promises. How would our lives and world be different If God’s promises took shape in the present moment? Where would you like for God’s promises come alive in your life in a new way this New Year? That is what Buechner calls “a solid grace-framed agenda for the coming New Year!”

Let me share a poem by Mary Fairchild called A New Year’s Plan.

“I tried to think of a clever new phrase-

A slogan to inspire the next 365 days,

A motto to live by this coming New Year,

But the catchy words fell flat to my ear.

  

And then I heard His still small voice

Saying, ‘consider this simple, daily choice:

With each new dawn and close of the day

Make new your resolve to trust and obey.

   

Don’t look back and be caught in regret

Or dwell on the sorrow of dreams unmet;

Don’t stare forward anchored by fear,

No, live in this moment, for I am here.

  

I am all you need. Everything I Am.

You are held secure by my strong hand.

Give me this one thing-your all in all;

Into my grace, let yourself fall’.

  

So, at last I’m ready, I see the way.

It’s to daily follow, trust and obey.

I enter the New Year armed with a plan,

To give Him everything. All That I Am!”

 Posted by at 3:59 pm

Ten Questions for a New Year

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Dec 292019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE:   Ten Questions for a New Year Article by Don Whitney Professor, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It’s so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we’re going and where we should be going.

Once, when the people of God had become careless in their relationship with him, the Lord rebuked them through the prophet Haggai: “Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:5). He urged them to reflect on some of the things happening to them, and to evaluate their slipshod spirituality in light of what God had told them.

Ten Questions

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. A great time for us to “Consider our ways.” To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.

1. What’s one thing you can do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

Our enjoyment of God comes primarily through the means of grace he has given us. He has promised to bless us most directly and consistently through means such as his word, prayer, and the church. One specific suggestion I’d offer would be to include some meditation on Scripture along with your daily reading. It’s better to read less — if necessary — and yet as the result of meditation remember something, than to read more and remember nothing.

2. What’s an impossible prayer you can pray?

There are more than a dozen “but God” statements in Scripture, such as in Romans 5:8, which reads, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Situations that were humanly impossible were transformed by “but God” (Ephesians 2:1–7). What’s a “but God” prayer you can pray for the coming year?

3. What’s the most important thing you could do to improve your family life?

If your family doesn’t practice family worship, beginning there is the single best recommendation I could make. Just ten minutes a day, simply reading the Bible, praying, and singing together — an event that requires no preparation — is all it takes. My little book titled Family Worship can tell you more.

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year?

Would it be a personal spiritual discipline (that is, one you practice alone), or an interpersonal spiritual discipline (one you practice with other believers)? Once you decide, determine the next step to take and when you will take it.

5. What’s the single biggest time-waster in your life, and how can you redeem the time?

Social media? TV? Video games? Sports? Hobbies? It’s easy for any of these (or something else) to take too much of our hearts and time. Is repentance required? Trying to stop, by itself, is probably not the answer. Actively replacing it with something better helps us in “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).

6. What’s the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

While we often stress the fact that individual believers are the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:15), the New Testament actually says seven times to one that the church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 5:23). We mustn’t let our frequent emphasis on our personal relationship with Christ minimize the importance of our service to Jesus through his body. How can your church be stronger this year because of you? Serving? Giving? Praying?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

Praying frequently and fervently for someone’s salvation makes us more sensitive to opportunities to share the gospel with him or her. Will you commit to praying for at least one person’s salvation every day this new year?

8. What’s the most important way, by God’s grace, you will try to make this year different from last?

Obviously, God’s sovereignty rules over all things, and there is nothing we can do about much that he brings into our lives. On the other hand, under his sovereignty he gives us a measure of responsibility over many areas of life. In which of these would you most like to see a change from last year? You may find that your answer to this question is found in one of your answers above. To which of them do you sense the Holy Spirit calling your attention most urgently?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

For many, it might be as simple as designating a time exclusively for prayer instead of praying only “on the go” types of prayers. For others, it might be learning the simple, biblical practice of praying the Bible.

10. What single thing can you plan to do this year that will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

Short-term deadlines tend to dominate our attention. Busyness and fatigue often limit our vision to just getting through today. But don’t let the tyranny of the urgent distract you from something you’re neglecting that would have enormous long-term impact on your soul, your family, or your church.

Consider Your New Year

The value of many of these questions is not in their profundity, but in the simple fact that they bring an issue or commitment into focus. For example, just by making a goal to encourage one person in particular this year is more likely to help you remember to encourage that person than if you hadn’t set that goal. If you’ve found these questions helpful, you might want to put them someplace — on your phone, computer, calendar, or wherever you put reminders — where you can review them frequently.

I hope this article will help you to “consider your ways,” to make plans and goals, and to live this new year with biblical diligence, remembering the principle that “the plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance” (Proverbs 21:5). But in all things, let’s also remember our dependence on our King, who said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Don Whitney is professor of biblical spirituality and associate dean at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. He is the author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life and Praying the Bible. His website is biblicalspirituality.org. 8.9K

 Posted by at 2:35 pm

“The Monster At the Manger”

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Dec 222019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The Monster At the Manger”  By:  Ron Woodrum

  Our January Bible Study for 2020 is the Book of Jeremiah. We have a lot of favorite verses in Jeremiah. One of the first ones is Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in thye womb, I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart, I appointed you as a prophet to the nations!”; Jeremiah 6:16 “This is what the LORD says, ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask for the good way, and walk in it, you will find rest for your souls’ ” ;Jeremiah 17:7-8 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him. They shall be like a tree planted by the water, that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear heat when it comes; it leaves are always green, it has no worries in the year of drought, and never fails to bear fruit”. Of course, those two verses are followed by a very piercing one! Jeremiah 17: 9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it? We love Jeremiah 29:11 “I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you, and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future!” That is true because of what the Lord says in 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with my unfailing kindness.” An Evangelist friend of mine, Ed F. Vallowe always signed his name with Jeremiah 33:3 “Call unto me and I will answer and show you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” But no one seems to ever quote Jeremiah 31:15 “Thus saith the LORD, ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, a lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are no more!” Fleming Rutledge reminds us that “Advent began with great darkness”, and in her sermon she reminds us that even that first Christmas, “there was a Monster at the manger”. It seems that a Pastor that she knew was putting out the figures of the family nativity on the coffee table in the living room, near the Christmas tree. His 4-year-old, interested in what was going on, was right there watching each figure as it was being put in place. Each time he asked, “who is that Dad?” After they were all in place, Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, The Wise Men, the Shepherds, the animals. All in place. The youngster couldn’t resist adding one more figure- (he was fascinated with dinosaurs, as most his age are), so he placed in the midst of the holy characters, his larger tyrannosaurus rex! As he did, he said, “Dad look, there’s a Monster in the Manger!” Rutledge reminds us that when the wise men arrived in Jerusalem, seeking the Born King of the Jews, there was a Monster, King Herod, who wanted to follow them to Bethlehem, to destroy the Baby Jesus, before He even had his beginning to “save His people from their sins!” He was a monster at the manger! Jeremiah’s prophecy predicted an event that would accompany the Birth of Jesus. Herod, the brutal maniac that he was ordered all the male babies two years old, and younger to be slaughtered. Herod was indeed a monster. He killed his beloved wife Mariamne; he killed three of his own sons, because of his paranoia; Caesar Augustus said, “Better to be Herod’s sow, than his son!” You would stand a better chance of staying alive! Make no mistake about it-there was a greater Monster behind the horrible act of Herod. His name was Satan. As he moved Pharaoh to destroy the male children, to destroy Moses, he stirred the evil heart of Herod, to cause history to repeat itself. In the midst of all the rejoicing of the Christmas season, we need to remember there was remorse as well. Jesus came to “destroy the works of the devil”. The devil knew he must strike first. But as always, he has visions of grandeur, but cannot ever defeat God, or His Christ! So even in the early Christmas narrative we are shown that as Satan strikes out to “steal, kill, and destroy” that God has His counter-moves to defeat and destroy the “monster at the manger!”

As Hal Lindsey wrote in his book, Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth, that is still true in 2019 as it was in 1972. Maybe more so! But Christmas is a reminder that his days are numbered. Jesus was saved when Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt. When Jesus comes again, Satan will have no where to flee! Even so come Lord Jesus.

 Posted by at 3:45 pm

A Christmas essay: What the world needs now

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Dec 152019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: A Christmas essay: What the world needs now DECEMBER 11, 2019 BY ERIC REED

Tourists packing into the tiny mausoleum at Galla Placidia in Ravenna, Italy must be disappointed at first. Billed as the most spectacular and best-preserved mosaic in Christendom, the ceiling depicts Jesus surrounded by sheep in a green pasture. Travel guides and academics alike hail its artistic beauty. The mosaic was commissioned by a Roman emperor for his sister’s burial place 1,500 years ago, so you can imagine no expense was spared. But tourists packed into the space block the narrow windows, and it’s almost impossible to see the mosaic. Straining into the darkness as their disappointment sinks in, the pilgrims are suddenly blinded by brilliant light and rich colors of the pastoral scene dazzle their senses. Someone has dropped 300 lira into the coin box; the spotlights have popped on. Their eyes dart about seeking where to focus—sky, star, sheep, Jesus—for a few seconds. Then darkness again, deeper than ever.

A coworker of mine at a pastor’s magazine included a version of that story in a preaching article a dozen years ago. I have thought of it on occasion, usually after a midnight toe-stubbing in a pitch-black room. If only someone would drop in another 300 lira and rescue me from this darkness.

I’ve had the same thought about the world in recent years—politically and culturally. The postmodern era is proving to be no great enlightenment. Headlines on the news feeds serve mostly to prompt head shakes and tongue clucks, and the wonder, Can it get any worse?

At times, what Paul called “this present darkness” in the first century seems to be just as present in the twenty-first. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:12).

Some days it seems not a lot has changed since then. And we could go back further.

Long before Jesus’ birth, the Egyptians and the peoples living in Canaan sought to explain the physical world with a troop of gods each responsible for an aspect or two of nature and the weather, but their gods proved to be angry failures unable to control even their own supposed creation, or to alleviate their subjects’ suffering in cycles of flood and drought, plague and destruction.

Rather than seek out the true God who truly is over all, they turned to other gods and more gods. The gods multiplied and specialized under the Greeks and later the Romans, but the panoply did not brighten the heavens and mountain tops where they lived. Theirs was endless revelry celebrating their most wicked natures, blind to their own debauched state. In the time leading up to Jesus, the strict religion of the Jews served to show the complete depravity of humanity and the ultimate inability of man to assuage the due wrath of Deity or to atone for man’s own iniquity. The Law existed to prove we are unable keep the Law.

It was a dark time.

In some way, darkness has characterized every age, beginning with creation when darkness was over the face of the deep. The Dark Ages, so named in retrospect, saw the retreat of religion and the near death of knowledge in the Western world. The Middle Ages were little better, except that their failures were better catalogued. The Renaissance promised advance, but The Enlightenment served mostly to question faith more than bolster it. And the accomplishments of mankind became the impetus for many to celebrate themselves, rather than the God who made it all possible.

Great cathedrals were built with purgatory payments, and empires were borne on the backs of poverty. Louis XIV declared himself Sol, the Sun God. There were few courageous enough to refute it, except from the blackness of their solitary cells. The Huguenots, like the Puritans, were persecuted in their time for bearing the gospel truth and shedding its light on the evils of their society and religious hierarchy. (Sol, indeed.)

Even the modern era, which was supposed to bring truth to light and lasting peace to man’s war with himself and with others, has instead produced civil wars, world wars, cold war, culture war, drug war, genocide, infanticide, and ISIS. The world seems dark—even now.

In fact, scientists have discovered a galactic darkness so dark that it feeds on light. Black holes in remotest space so deep that their depth cannot be fathomed. Black holes without bottoms.

But into this cosmos, Jesus still declares, “I am the light of the world.”

It is a cosmic reality so profound, so deep, so universe altering, that even our brightest minds can hardly grasp it. Many can’t.

What light is capable of breaking through dark matter, dark minds, dark hearts, dark sin, dark failure? What light is there that cannot be overcome by these great and terrible darknesses?

Only the light of Christ.

  

   Here I am

“Light of the world, you stepped down into darkness…” the popular worship song says. And lit it up, we could add. “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:4-5). This is a bold statement coming from John in the first century. The light was victorious, triumphant, undefeated. Some translations say the darkness did not “comprehend” the light, and certainly that is true. C.S. Lewis borrowed an allegory from Plato and used it to explain a Christian truth. He tells of people who lived in a cave. All they knew of reality was shadows on the wall cast by a light source behind them. It was a campfire in Plato’s version, and these people were confined to chairs since childhood, not allowed look around or behind them. What they saw were only hints of what was out there. Confined to this darkened cave, they had no way to measure whether what they imagined might be true. Shadows were all they knew.

That is man in his unregenerate state, seeing only shadows of the truth, unable to determine what is reality. And the same may be said of the whole world before the advent of Christ. To a culture bumbling along with its multiplicity of angry, failing, self-absorbed deities, Yahweh sent a word of hope—many prophecies, in fact—glimpses of a brighter future.

Isaiah’s prognosis sums it up well:

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness” (Isaiah 9:2).

Did the shepherds on a hillside outside Bethlehem know their Scriptures well enough to understand that Isaiah’s prophecy was happening to them when an angel praise band fractured an inky sky and made their holy declaration? “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11 KJV).

We often hear that shepherds were the lowest rank in their society, but many Jewish boys went to Hebrew school (or, as they called it, school). Maybe one among them knew the prophecy from 700 years earlier that connected God’s promised One to light itself. But whether or not they comprehended it at that moment, they witnessed the cosmic miracle. “The true light that gives light to everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9).

The Messianic prophecy was all about light, and the announcement was made in heavenly light. “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

With that contemporary songwriter mentioned earlier, we would say, “Open my eyes, let me see.”

  

Brilliant guidance system

British composer Tim Hughes says he was praying over a few verses of Philippians 2 when the stanzas to “Here I Am to Worship” came to him rather quickly. But then the writing stopped. He asked himself what his response should be to this incredible, selfless act on the part of Jesus. He left the glory of heaven, all rightly his own, to bring his light to earth. Surely there must be a chorus for this song.

Six months later Hughes returned to the verses with an answer: “Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down…” And we sing it in many churches on many Sundays. Hughes’s popular song has stayed in the top twenty worship songs for going on twenty years.

The Magi beat Hughes to the answer 2,000 years earlier.

Following the star a great distance, they arrived in a tiny nowhere town and discovered the birthplace of the Savior well marked from above. The Psalmist had promised that the word of God would light the path of the pilgrim like a lamp on a roadway (Psalm 119:105). In their case, these wise seekers found not a proverb in general, but a promise in specific that the Messiah would be coming into the world. Herod’s own wise men unwittingly told the travelers where, and starlight took them there.

Their response? Life-changing worship.

Matthew reports because of their concern for Herod’s intentions, they went home “a different way.” We might say Matthew was giving a GPS summary, that the Magi avoided Jerusalem on the return trip, but anyone who has seen the Light and worshipped him can say they also have left the worship experience personally different.

 Posted by at 3:49 pm

“Mastering the Hardest Arithmetic-Counting Our Blessings!”

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Dec 012019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Mastering the Hardest Arithmetic-Counting Our Blessings!”  By:  Ron Woodrum

  This past week was Thanksgiving week. Eric Hoffer says it is the time to “master the hardest arithmetic-counting our blessings!” G.K. Chesterton said, “I would maintain that thanks is the highest form of thought, and gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder”. He also said, “Everything should be received with gratitude, and passed on with Grace.” JFK made sure we understand that thanksgiving is more than words. He said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them”. He thought thanksgiving should be translated into thanksliving! John Wannamaker says that thanksgiving is a process. “It begins with a feeling in the heart; expressed in words; results in giving in return”. Cicero said, “Gratitude is the greatest of all virtues-and the parent of all others”. Robert Louis Stevenson warned-“The person who has stopped being thankful has fallen asleep in life”. Shakespeare was even more convicting-“Blow, blow, blow winter wind, thou are not so unkind as man’s ingratitude!” William Ward reminded us that “God gave 86,400 seconds today. Have you used ONE to say thank you?” He also said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it”. Gratitude is not to just concern what we get but what we don’t get! Storm Jameson, in Journey from the North, I have received may the Lord make me thankful. And more truly…thankful for what I have NOT received!” There is an old proverb that says, “He who will not thank for the little things will not thank for much either.” “When we have forgotten the language of thankfulness, we are no longer on speaking terms with happiness.” One of the best thanksgiving messages I ever heard was a sermon by a Seventh Day Evangelist named George Vandeman. It was called “I wonder how to thank Him”. He said, “Nothing can have a more profound effect on your mental health than a spirit of thankfulness”. We can always find things to be grateful for and to give thanks for even in difficult times. H.U. Westermeyer reminds us-“The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts that first Thanksgiving-no Americans have been more impoverished, yet set aside a Day of Thanksgiving”. Thomas Aquinas gets to the heart of the matter when he instructs us that “God has no need of our worship. (He loves our devotion and worship-but has no inherent need of anything!) It is us who need to show gratitude for what we have received”.

Probably the most insightful thing I have ever read about Thanksgiving and Praise is something C.S. Lewis said in his book Reflections on the Psalms. He wrote: “I struggled with the idea that God demands our praise and commands us to give Him glory. For years this was a stumbling block to me! Then I seemed to see its purpose. The most obvious fact about praise-whether of God or anything-strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or giving honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless-shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought into check it. the world rings with praise-lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite games-praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians, or even scholars. I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits, and malcontents praised the least…Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it. ‘Isn’t it lovely? Wasn’t is glorious? Don’t you think that is magnificent?’ The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable One, what we delight to do, what we indeed can’t help doing, about everything else of value. We delight to praise…because praise not only expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed…If it were possible for a created soul fully to appreciate, that is to love and delight in, the worthiest object of all, and simultaneously at every moment to give this delight perfect expression, then that soul would be in supreme beatitude…the Confession says, ‘man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever”. But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him. Living in Praise is something we need more than God needs. It completes us…and glorifies Him. Praise Him! Praise Him! Happy Sacrifices of Thanksgiving.

 Posted by at 2:01 pm