Sammy

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

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on “Practicing what the years and centuries are saying against the hours.”
Feb 032019
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

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

 Posted by at 2:47 am

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

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on Remain a “Child of Pure Unclouded Brow and Dreaming Eyes of Wonder”.
Jan 272019
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Posted by at 2:31 am

“More Star-like Than a Star”

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on “More Star-like Than a Star”
Jan 062019
 

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

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

Shadows Are Falling

I’ve Been Here All Day

It’s too hot to sleep,

Time is Running Away Feel

Like My Soul is Turning to Steel

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

There’s Not Even Room Enough

To Be Anywhere

It’s Not Dark Yet,

But It’s Getting There!

     

Well My Sense of Humanity

Has Gone Down the Drain

Behind Every Beautiful Thing,

There’s Some Kind of Pain…

Sometimes my burden,

Seems more than I can bear

It’s Not Dark Yet,

But It’s Getting There!

    

I was born here, and I’ll die here

Against My Will I Know

It Looks Like I’m Moving,

But I’m Standing Still

Every Nerve In My Body

Is Vacant and Numb

I can’t even Remember,

What I came here to Get Away From

Don’t even hear a Murmur of A Prayer

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

   

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

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

Love’s Lantern

Because the road was steep and long

And through a dark and lonely land,

God set upon my lips a song,

And put a Lantern in my hand.

  

Through miles on weary miles of night

That stretch relentless in my way

My lantern burns serene and white,

An exhausted cup of day.

  

O golden lights and lights like wine,

How dim your boasted splendors are

Behold this little lamp of mine,

Is more star-like than a star!

  

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

 Posted by at 2:30 pm

“Avoid the reefs of the New Year!”

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on “Avoid the reefs of the New Year!”
Dec 302018
 

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

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

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

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

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

 Posted by at 2:11 pm

“The unedited Christmas and the Perfect Tree”

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on “The unedited Christmas and the Perfect Tree”
Dec 232018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The unedited Christmas and the Perfect Tree”  (By:  Ron Woodrum)

It’s the king of all classic TV Christmas specials: “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. It first aired in 1965. We know the familiar scenes of Charlie Brown looking for the real meaning of Christmas; receiving no cards from anyone; Snoopy decorates his doghouse; Lucy has her Christmas pageant; Charlie picks out a tree that is pitiful and is laughed at for such a choice! Of course, Charlie cries out in frustration-“doesn’t anyone know what the true meaning of Christmas is?” At that moment Linus Van Pelt takes center stage telling Charlie-“I can tell you what Christmas is all about”. He then proceeds to quote the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke. He not only describes the angelic visit, but then quotes how the angels said, “Be not afraid…for unto you is born this day, in Bethlehem, a Savior which is Christ the Lord. This shall be a sign you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘glory to God in the highest and on earth peace good will toward men'”. “That is what Christmas is all about!” Linus affirms. Recently I heard an interview of one of the creators of that show. When Charles Shultz, the creator of Peanuts, Charlie Brown, and that particular Christmas special suggested that particular drama he was met with strong opposition, and objection to airing that because of the inclusion of the message centering around Jesus…the Savior. The network wanted to edit out the part about Jesus being the central meaning of Christmas. The network wanted to tube the show. They feared there would be strong opposition to it, and it would result in loss of advertising. You know what Charles Schultz did? He stood his ground. He said, “If we don’t do it who will? We’re going to do it”…and the rest is history! With his groundbreaking project on the line, Charles Schultz refused to “edit out Jesus!” during that Christmas season in 1965. It took courage! God blessed him and us for that stand. How about us this Christmas. Are we willing to stand our ground and refuse to edit Jesus out of our Christmas pageants? That is exactly what the devil wants us to do. It is ok to celebrate the holidays! Enjoy the festivities. Just don’t get carried away with too much focus on Jesus. His virgin birth. His reason for coming. Stay away from themes like Incarnation-God with us-Salvation as an unspeakable gift due to Calvary!

Charles Schultz was a master to have Charlie Brown find all the commercialization of Christmas leave him empty and confused. He was a genius to make the center part of the pageant center around a little unattractive tree that everyone laughs at. Then of course to answer Charlie’s question about the meaning of Christmas with God’s answer from Luke’s gospel, through the person of Linus! Then Linus saying-“I never thought it was such a bad little tree at all really…maybe all it just needs is a little love!” And Charlie Brown saying, “This little tree needs a home. I think it needs me!” The unattractive tree becomes a beautiful part of the Christmas story. There are some subtle but significant messages in this pageant. When Linus hears the angel say, “Be not afraid”…he lays his security blanket down! Then that ugly tree seems to draw everyone to it to see it in a different light. When they do…they give it a home and love…and find a home and love of their own! -Through that tree! Subtle but significant message. Makes me think of a song by Ray Boltz-called the Perfect Christmas Tree. Listen to the words:

 

The ornaments are ready

The place has been prepared

Strings of lights and holly

Are draped across the chair

The family’s all together

I know where they must be

Everyone is searching

For the perfect tree

 

Mother wants a straight one

The children want it tall

Dad just hopes that somehow

He can get it down the hall

Soon they’ll gather round it

As proud as they can be

But when they’re look at it

I wonder if they see

 

The Perfect tree

Grew very long ago

And it was not decked with silver

Or ornaments of gold

But hanging from it branches

Was a gift for you and me

Jesus laid His life down

On that Perfect Tree

 

With all the celebrations

Sometimes the truth is lost

That every step this baby took

Brought Him closer to the cross!

 

That Perfect Tree needs some love and home. If you embrace the one who died upon it, it will bring the real meaning of love and Christmas to your home this Christmas. Don’t let anyone cause you to edit that message and that Savior out of your Christmas pageant. Embrace Him and you too can turn loose of any and all of those security blankets that are fulfilling your deepest needs anyway. That is the what Christmas means!

 Posted by at 6:30 pm

“Saved by the faithful effort of the One who Loves Us!”

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on “Saved by the faithful effort of the One who Loves Us!”
Dec 162018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Saved by the faithful effort of the One who Loves Us!”   (By:  Ron Woodrum)

The USS Astoria was a heavy cruiser that saw duty during World War II’s Battle of the Coral Sea and at Midway, then was sunk in August of 1942 at the Battle of Savo Island. On board in the fight for Savo was Signalman 3rd class Elgin Staples. Sometime around 2 a.m. on the ship’s final day, Staples was blown overboard when one of the Astoria’s gun turrets exploded. In the water, wounded in both legs by shrapnel and in a state of near-shock, Staples was kept afloat by a narrow lifebelt which he had activated by a trigger. In his book, The Grand Weaver, Ravi Zacharias tells the fascinating story of what happened next. Four hours after being blown into the Pacific, Staples was picked up by a passing destroyer and returned to the Astoria. Even though the cruiser had been severely damaged, her captain was trying to beach the ship in order to save her.   When his attempts failed, Staples found himself back in the water. By now, it was noon. This time it was the USS President Jackson that plucked him out of the water. On board, Staples studied that little lifebelt which had saved his life twice that day. He noticed the belt was manufactured by the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company of Akron, Ohio, and carried a registration number. Allowed to go home for a visit, Staples related his story to the family and asked his mother, who worked for Firestone, the purpose of the registration number on the belt. She pointed out that the company was holding employees responsible for their work in the war effort, and that each worker had his/her own number. Staples recalled everything about that lifebelt, including the registration number. As he called it out, his mother’s eyes grew large. She said, “That was my personal code that I put on every item I was responsible for approving!” His mother had made the belt which had saved his life twice. Ravi Zacharias concludes, “The one who gave him birth and whose DNA he bore gave him rescue in the swirling waters that threatened to take his life. If an earthly parent playing the role of procreation can provide a means of rescue without knowing when and for whom that belt would come into play, how much more can the God of all creation accomplish?” I like to think of such accounts as a miniature photo of the Heavenly Father caring for His own. God said, “But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you… I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake; and I will not remember your sins.’” (Isaiah 43:1-2,25) Our Lord Jesus said, “When (the shepherd) puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice… I am the good shepherd, and I know my sheep and am known by my own. As the Father knows me, even so I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:3-4,14-15)

I didn’t want to end this article with that story, as excellent as it is. This lesson needs a little more to “set” it. So, after combing through the books on various shelves of my office, I turned to Mark Buchanan’s Things Unseen, where he tells this story:

William M. Dyke became blind when he was ten. In his early 20s, attending grad school in England, he fell in love with the daughter of a British admiral and they planned to marry. Her father, however, agreed to the marriage only if Dyke would submit to surgery that could possibly restore his sight. He agreed, on one condition. He did not want the gauze removed from his eyes until the moment he met his bride at the altar. He wanted her face to be the first thing he looked upon with his new sight. There was the risk, of course, that the surgery would fail and he would see nothing. He was willing to take the chance. After the surgery, the day of the wedding came. As the parents led the bride and groom together at the altar of the church, William’s father removed the gauze from his eyes. Until that moment, no one knew if the surgery had worked. When the last strand of the gauze was taken away, William Dyke was face-to-face with his bride. The wedding party was speechless and breathless. Then William spoke: “You are more beautiful than I ever imagined.”

Buchanan writes, “One day that will happen to us, only the roles will be reversed. ‘Now we see but a poor reflection in a mirror,’ Paul says, ‘then we shall see face to face. Now I know (Him) in part; then I shall know (Him) fully, even as I am fully known’ (I Corinthians 13:12). One day, the Bride of Christ, near blind now, will stand before her Bridegroom at the Wedding Feast, and the veil will be removed, the scales will fall away, and we will see Him face-to-face and know Him even as we are fully known.” “And He will be more beautiful than we ever imagined.” AMEN AND AMEN!

 Posted by at 6:17 pm

“Be Still…and think the thoughts of God!”

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on “Be Still…and think the thoughts of God!”
Dec 092018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Be Still…and think the thoughts of God!” (By:  Ron Woodrum)

     In Psalm 46:10 we are told…”Be still and know that I am God.” The Psalmist is saying that it is critical for the Christian to slow down long enough to focus our minds, hearts, minds, and souls upon God…upon knowing Him. That is the key to knowing and experiencing God in all His fullness in our lives! J.I. Packer, in his book, Knowing God, points out that first of all we need to know “about” God. He writes: “Knowing about God is crucially important for the living of our lives. As it would be cruel to take an Amazonian tribesman and fly him to London, and put him down without explanation in Trafalgar Square and leave him, as one who knew nothing of English or England, to fend for himself, so we are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about God, whose world it is and who runs it. The world becomes a strange, mad, and painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard God and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded…with no sense of direction, and no understanding of what surrounds you. You can waste your life and lose your soul“. But he continues on that “knowing about God is not enough. We need to take the next step. We turn our knowledge about God into to knowledge of God”. How? Through experiencing Him through Christ and the salvation He has provided. Through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, and knowledge of His Word. “We must turn each truth that we learn of Him into meditation that leads to praise and practice of the presence of God through Christ.” It takes both. Dr. John Mackey, when President of Princeton Seminary, in its more evangelical days, said “Commitment without reflection is fanaticism in action. But reflection without commitment is paralysis of action“. How true. The Christian life is centered on doctrine that fills the mind, and then duty that is lived out of that mindset. James Orr, in his book The Christian View of God and His World, says ” If there is a religion in the world that exists around teaching truth it is the religion of Jesus Christ. Pagan religions kept doctrine at the minimal. It put emphasis on ritual…when the Church did not emphasize doctrine first, followed by devotion and duty it tended to become weak, ineffective, and unwholesome!” Henry Blamares, in his book The Christian Mind, emphasizes this same approach. He says, “The Christian Mind has succumbed to the secular drift of the world in its thinking, with a degree of weakness and nerve lessness unmatched in Christian history! As a thinking being the modern Christian has succumbed to secularization“. That has spelled disaster for the impact of the Church on the world.

T.S. Eliot, in his magnificent poem Choruses from the Rock, (which the entire poem is a commentary on the failure of the Church to impact our world), points out that part of the problem is that we have settled for secular knowledge instead of spiritual, and it has been the ruin of the Christian and the Church. He writes:

“Our endless cycles of ideas and action    

Endless inventions, endless experiment    

Brings knowledge of motion, but not stillness    

Knowledge of speech, but not of silence

Knowledge of words, but IGNORANCE OF THE WORD. 

 

All this knowledge brings us closer to ignorance

All this ignorance closer to death 

Nearer to death, but no nearer to God. 

WHERE IS THE LIFE WE HAVE LOST IN THE LIVING?”

That is the Christian’s address today. So knowledgeable about everything. Enjoying all the inventions and experiences our brave new world offers. But in it all we have lost everything we have deemed important and spiritual! How do we get it back? Where do we go from here? Eliot’s poem gives some great direction. But even truth can come from some unexpected sources. Another modern poet has pointed us in the right direction. Don Henley wrote a poem that later became a popular song. It spoke to both the needs of the world and the Church, if we have ears to listen. He wrote in Learn to Be Still, these words:

“It’s Another Day In Paradise

As you stumble to your bed. 

You’d give anything to silence

The voices ringing in your head.

You thought you could find happiness

 

Just over that green hill 

You thought you would be satisfied…

But you never will…

Til you learn to be still!

 

We are like sheep without a shepherd

We don’t know how to be alone

We wander around this desert

And wind up following the wrong gods home!

But the flock cries out for another 

And they keep answering the bell 

And another starry-eyed messiah

Meets their violent farewell-

We must learn to be still! 

 

There are so many contradictions 

In all the messages we send- 

We keep asking… 

How do I get out of here? 

Where do I fit in? 

While the world is torn and shaking…

And we find our heart is breaking…

It’s waiting for us to awaken…

And someday we will…

LEARN TO BE STILL!”

Until then…we as Christians will keep chasing our tails…going in circles…with the circles getting ever smaller…as we become more shallow and itrelevant to our world. We need to “be still…focus our minds, hearts, spirits, souls upon God, His Son, and His Word, and that knowledge will transform us, and those we encounter in our world”. When asked about his great discoveries in the world of astronomy, German Astronomer Johanness Kepler said, “I was just thinking the thoughts of God after Him!” That may just be the key that will keep us from “losing the life…in the living!”

The Danish theologian Soren Kirkegaard wrote a beautiful prayer that can hit at the heart of our issues today. I hated having to read his works in Christian Doctrine Class, during the section on Contemporary Theology. But reviewing some of his words can give us some convicting perspective. He wrote:

“Father in Heaven! What is a human being without Thee! What is all that one knows, vast accumulation though it may be, but a chipped fragment if one does not know Thee! What is all striving, could it ever encompass a world, but a half-finished work if one does not know Thee! You art the One Thing and Who Art All! So, may Thou give to the intellect wisdom to comprehend that One Thing; to the heart, sincerity to receive this understanding; to the will, purity that wills the Only One Thing. In prosperity may Thou grant perseverance to will One Thing; amid distractions, collectiveness to will One Thing; in suffering, patience to will the One Thing. Oh, Thou that givest both the beginning and completion, may Thou early, at the dawn of day, give the young person the resolution to will the One Thing. As our day wanes, may Thou give to the Older person a renewed remembrance of the first resolution, that the first may be like the last, and the last like the first, in possession of a life that has indeed willed the One Thing! But alas it has not come to pass. Something has come in between. The separation of sin lies in between. Each day, and day after day something is being placed between: delay, blockage, interruption, delusion, corruption. So, in this time of repentance may Thou give the courage once again to will the One Thing”. Be still…think the thoughts of God…really know Him and as you know Him…through His Son Jesus… that is the One Thing!

 Posted by at 1:43 pm

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “CHRISTMAS-GOD HOOKING AN EXTRA ON THE FRONT OF ORDINARY”

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “CHRISTMAS-GOD HOOKING AN EXTRA ON THE FRONT OF ORDINARY”
Dec 022018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “CHRISTMAS-GOD HOOKING AN EXTRA ON THE FRONT OF ORDINARY”  (By:  Ron Woodrum)

Thanksgiving is now past. The major post-Thanksgiving sales are on. Black Friday-Small Business Saturday-Cyber Monday. Then all the ads that remind us exactly how many days to Christmas. The Christmas season is suddenly on us! Every year each Pastor is faced with the challenge of preaching the great Christmas themes and presenting the incredible Christmas story. The preacher finds himself in the role similar of the monument-cleaner. A monument cleaner is someone who comes and removes the debris that has covered up the beauty of the original artwork-to polish up the monument to help us perceive the original beauty. That is the challenge of preaching the Christmas story. The goal is to help us see the Christmas story as we have never seen it before-letting the original message and beauty come shining through. That is a challenge!

Much of Christmas’ beauty is its sameness. Think about it. The same traditions. The same meals. The same songs. The same candlelight services. The same shopping habits. Yet each Christmas is a little different. Sometimes the change is noticeable and unexpected, at other time a mere matter of flexibility. But each year’s celebration somehow speaks its familiar message with freshness that can only be heard by ears a year older. So in the next series of Christmas messages let me invite you to bring your this-Christmas life within the reach of God’s Christmas story, to look at these same pictures of love and grace from a new vantage point, to spend a few weeks letting God’s comforting sameness reveal His new-every-morning side. It’s time to experience Christmas again-in the same old-brand new way.

As we begin our journey toward Christmas 2018 the first consideration, I want you to meditate on is this-There is one word that describes the night that Jesus was born-ORDINARY! The sky was ordinary. An occasional gust stirred the leaves and chilled the air. The stars were sparkling diamonds on a black velvet backdrop. But then they ordinarily do! Fleets of clouds floated in front of the moon. It was a beautiful night-but not really an unusual one. No reason to expect a surprise. Nothing to keep a person awake. An ordinary night with an ordinary sky. The sheep were ordinary. Some fat. Some scrawny. Some with barrel bellies. Some with twig legs. Common animals. No fleece made of gold. No history makers. No blue-ribbon winners. They were simply sheep-lumpy, sleeping silhouettes on a hillside. And the shepherds were ordinary. Ordinary peasants. Probably wearing all the clothes they owned. Smelling like sheep and looking just a wooly. They were conscientious, willing to spend the night with their flocks. But you won’t find their staffs in a museum nor their writings in a library. No one asked their opinions-about social justice-the Torah-or actually about anything! They were nameless and simple. There you go-An ordinary night with ordinary sheep and ordinary shepherds. And were it not for a God who loves to hook an “extra” on the front of ordinary, the night would have gone unnoticed. The sheep would have been forgotten, and the shepherds would have slept the night away. Neither would have been memorialized from generation after generation in bath robes in local Church Christmas pageants!

But God dances amidst the common. That night it was the greatest of Waltzes! The black sky exploded with brightness. Trees that had been shadows jumped into clarity. Sheep that had been silent became a chorus of curiosity. One minute the shepherds were dead asleep, the next they were rubbing their eyes, scared out of their wits, staring into the face of a host of aliens-angelic hosts praising God and saying “Peace on earth, good will toward men!” The night was ordinary no more. The angels came at night because it is at night that lights are best seen and when they are needed most! God comes into the common for the same reason. He delights in making the “ordinary” into the “extra-ordinary”. That is what His Son had come to do for the entire human race! He came to transform ordinary sinners into extraordinary saints-all through the birth, life, death of resurrection of his ordinary, but extra-ordinary Son-The Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah would say-“His name shall be called “Wonderful”. The Hebrew word “wonderful” is the word “pela”. It refers to something or someone that makes a person marvel. It is something or someone that causes wonder, amazement, astonishment, worship and awe! That is exactly who He is and what He does for everyone that encounters Him. Let the celebration of His birth be that and more for you this year!

One of my favorite authors, as you know, is Frederick Buechner. In his book Secrets in the Dark, he gives a perspective concerning Christmas that spoke volumes to me. He writes, “Those who believe in God can never in a way be sure of Him again. Once they have seen Him in a stable, they can never be sure where He will appear or to what lengths He will go or to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation He will descend in His wild pursuit of human-kind. If Holiness and the awful majesty of the Power of God were present in this least auspicious of all events, this birth of a peasant’s child, then there is no place or time so lowly and earthbound but that this Holiness can be present there too. This means we are never safe, that there is no place we can hide from God, no place where we are safe from His power to break in two and recreate the human heart, because it is just where He seems most helpless that He is most strong, and just where we least expect Him that He comes most fully!”. That is an awesome start to our celebration of Advent! Let Him transform our ordinary to His extra-ordinary. He loves doing that. That is why He came!

 Posted by at 11:22 pm

“The Face in the Sky-or the Face From Heaven”.

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on “The Face in the Sky-or the Face From Heaven”.
Nov 252018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The Face in the Sky-or the Face From Heaven”.  (By:  Ron Woodrum)

     In his book, The Hungering Darkness, Frederick Buechner shares an experience he had while touring Rome, in a sermon in that book entitled “The Face In The Sky”. He was at a theater that was showing the Italian Film La Dolce Vita, (The Sweet Life). The theater was filled with college students. He relates an experience that he felt illustrates the encounter the world faces during the Christmas season. Let me share part of his story. He writes: “As the Italian film La Dolce Vita opens, a helicopter is flying slowly through the sky not very high above the ground. Hanging down from the helicopter, in a kind of a halter, is the life-sized man dressed in robes with his arms outstretched, so that he looks almost as if he is flying by himself, especially when every once in awhile the camera cuts out the helicopter and all you can see is the statue itself and the rope around it. It flies over a field where some men are working in tractors and causes a great deal of excitement. They wave their hats and hop around and yell, and then one of them recognizes who it is a statue of and shouts in Italian-‘Hey it’s Jesus!’ whereupon some of the men start running along under the helicopter waving and calling to it. But the helicopter keeps on moving toward the city of Rome. As it reaches the outskirts of the city it passes over a building with a swimming pool on the roof, filled with girls…basking in the sun in their bikinis. They start waving and of course the helicopter pans in for a close encounter. During all of this the reaction of the audience in the college town began to laugh at the incongruity of the whole thing. There was a sacred statue dangling from the sky, on the one hand…the young Italians…and the young beauties…the one made of stone, so remote, so out of place there in the sky on the end of the rope; the others made of flesh…enjoying the sweet life. Nobody in the audience was in any doubt as to which of the two came out ahead or at whose expense the laughter was. But then the helicopter continues on its way, and the great dome of St. Peter’s looms up from below, and for the first time the camera starts to zoom in on the statue itself, with its arms stretched out, until for a moment the screen is almost filled with just the bearded face of Christ…and at that moment there was no laughter at all in that theater full of students and their dates and their tubs of buttery popcorn and la dolce vita (the sweet life) college style. Nobody laughed during the moment because there was something about that face, for a few seconds there on the screen, that made them be silent-the face hovering there in the sky and the outspread arms. For a moment, not very long to be sure, there was no sound, as if the face were their face somehow, their secret face that they had never seen before but that they knew belonged to them, or the face they had never seen before but they knew, if only for a moment, they belonged to…I think that is what the Christian faith is…especially at Christmas…there can only be silence as something comes to life, some spirit, some hope; as something is born again into the world that is so strange and new and precious that not even a cynic can laugh, at the sight of His face. That face in the sky. The child is born in the night among us…among the beasts. The sweet breath and the steaming dung of the beasts. And nothing is the same again…Once they have seen Him in a stable, they can never be sure where He will appear or to what lengths He will go or to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation He will descend in His love and wild pursuit of humankind. If the power and presence and holiness of God can be present in this least auspicious of all events, the birth of a peasant’s child, then there is no place or time so lowly and earthbound but that He can be present there too. This means we can never be safe from Him. We can never hide from Him…or from His power to break into and recreate the human heart, because when He seems the most helpless that He is the most strong, and just where we least expect Him that He comes most fully. Like the statue in the sky…the face in the sky…that Baby makes it so that nothing is ever the same again either…every Christmas…what they have seen and heard in that moment of stillness is just possibly, possibly the hope of the world. And what they feel in their hearts as they wave-maybe with only one hand, a little wave, a not very certain, but with his name on their lips-is the stirring of new life, new courage, new gladness seeking to be born in them even as He is born…into the whole wide world…will we raise our arms out to His arms, raise our empty faces to that bewildering face…Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Most High God, Prince of Peace, be born again into our world. Be born again in us…as we raise our faces to thy face, not knowing fully who we are or who you are, but only that thy love is beyond our knowing and that no other has the power to make us whole. Come Lord Jesus, this Christmas, to each of us who longs for thee enough to look into thy face.”

Buechner reminds us that every year the world has opportunity to encounter Jesus-The virgin born Savior of the World. His birth, in all the strangeness of a barn, surrounded by animals, laid in a manger, ignored by the inn keeper, ignored by the Political world, ignored by the religious world, and His own people, was welcomed by some, and brought the Presence of God into lives that had never known it before on that level. He brought salvation to all who would humbly bow before Him in recognition of Who He was, and He would be born in their hearts. In a strange way-Christmas is like that statue confronting the college students in the theater remind us, in the midst of what we think is the “sweet life”…that this face from heaven reminds us that He brings life that goes beyond the sweet life of earth and offers the abundant life that can only be found in Him. His incarnation…though a one-time fact of history that happened “at the fullness of time”…comes around again every year when that heavenly face invites us to come to God and Salvation through Him,,,and through Him only. Say yes to the face in that manger and experience what Phillip Brooks meant in his song-O Little Town of Bethlehem:

Oh holy Child of Bethlehem

Descend to us, we pray

Cast out our sin, and enter in

Be born in us today

The great glad tidings tell

Oh come to us, abide with us

Our Lord Emmanuel

 Posted by at 12:44 am

“Mastering the Hardest Arithmetic-Counting Our Blessings!”

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on “Mastering the Hardest Arithmetic-Counting Our Blessings!”
Nov 182018
 

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

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

This week is 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 Thanksgiving.

 

 Posted by at 1:13 pm