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“THANKSLIVING: It’s better than THANKSGIVING!”

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Nov 242019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “THANKSLIVING: It’s better than THANKSGIVING!”  By:  Ron Woodrum

  I am not sure when, where, or who first used the term “thanksliving”. Peter Gomes, renowned preacher of Harvard University in the 20th Century, (though not one I am particularly able to embrace the theology he embraced), wrote that he had a friend who kept an old Sunday Bulletin from the 1930’s because of the misprint it contained. It was a bulletin printed for Thanksgiving Day Service-but a typographical error left the title on the bulletin exclaiming “Thanksliving Day”. Gomes said, “What a wonderful mistake! Thanksgiving, as an attitude, should lead to thanksliving as an action!” I was content to credit Rev. Gomes with being the author of such a magnificent metamorphosis: Thanksgiving to Thanksliving. Then, while reading a sermon by the Great Baptist Preacher of the 1800’s, Charles H. Spurgeon, I came across these words: “I think that it is better than Thanksgiving: Thanksliving! How is it to be done? By a general cheerfulness of manner, by an obedience to the command of Him by whose mercy we live, by a perpetual constant delighting ourselves in the Lord and by a submissing of our desires to His will!” That is the earliest reference that have found in reference to Thanksgiving/Thanksliving. John F. Kennedy, though not using the words, certainly expressed the concept. He wrote: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, (Thanksgiving), but to live by them, (Thanksliving)”. Then, in further study, I came across an even more profound definition of the Thanksgiving/Thanksliving connection. G.K. Chesterton wrote: “I would maintain that Thanks is the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted, or with gratitude!” Henry David Thoreau said: “My Thanksgiving is Perpetual”-that pithy affirmation translates thanksgiving into thanksliving. Clement of Alexandria, a Church Father from over 1900 years ago, said: “There is only one offering we can make to God-A Thankful Heart!”-that is the source of Thanksliving!

I love the Thanksgiving holiday! I love the Thanksgiving history! I agree with O’Henry-“Thanksgiving is ours-it is the only truly indigenous American Holiday”. I love Thanksgiving poems. One of my favorite is The Pumpkin, by John Greenleaf Whittier. But I think my favorite Thanksgiving prank was a St. Louis radio show host that told a call-in lady, (he was only joking), to try his special recipe of adding a cup of popcorn to the stuffing placed inside the turkey). She took him serious! She lost her oven and her turkey! He lost his job! My favorite Thanksgiving Story is told by Author/Pastor Chuck Swindoll. In his book Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back, in the chapter on “Misunderstanding”, he tells the story told him by a friend who had a friend who was a young attorney in a sizable law firm in Texas. Swindoll says, “This young lawyer worked for a traditional kind of boss who had a thing for Thanksgiving. Every year the boss would go through a sort of ritual; at this large walnut table he would place a series of turkeys for each member in the law firm. It was not just a pick one up if you need one kind of arrangement. It was a formal setting where your turkey would be placed in front of you, and when the time came for you to receive yours, you would step forward to your turkey, express how grateful you were to work for the firm and acknowledge the gift of this sizable bird for your Thanksgiving. But this junior lawyer was single. He had no use for such a large turkey. He didn’t know how to cook one, and if he did, he certainly couldn’t eat that much meat. But every year, because it was expected, he received his turkey with gratitude, and then had to find a taker for his bird. This year, his friends had pulled a trick on him. They replaced his turkey, with a paper mache’ bird, loaded with lead, and wrapped just like the others!

When his turn came, just like the others, he stepped up and received his bird, (not realizing its bogus nature), and left the office with his Thanksgiving Turkey! He boarded the Transit System and headed home, with his bird on his lap. What would he do with it? As he contemplated his annual dilemma a man boarded the bus, and sat down in the vacant seat beside him. The man had recently been laid off, He had been job-hunting all day-no luck. As he shared his sad story with the young lawyer, the lawyer realized that his problem had been solved. This man, with no job, and a large family to feed for the holidays, would be a great candidate to give the turkey to. But not wanting to embarrass him, he offered the turkey for the bargain price of a couple of dollars, (which was the last bit of money the man had). As the man got off the bus, he thanked the lawyer for being so kind as to sell him the turkey at such a reduced price, to help him and his family have a blessed Thanksgiving. He told him-‘I’ll never forget you!’ Nothing could be more true! The stranger walked into his home and announced to his family that a nice man had made it possible for them to have turkey for Thanksgiving in spite of their recent circumstances! Imagine their surprise as they unwrapped the bogus bird only to find a strange conglomeration of paper mache and lead! The Monday, following the holidays, the rest of the firm was so anxious to hear about what the young lawyer thought of his Thanksgiving Turkey! You can only imagine their reaction when they heard that he had sold it, to the stranger in need, on the bus. Swindoll was told by his friend that the entire firm spent the next week searching the bus lines for the stranger who spent Thanksgiving wondering why a fine young lawyer would take his last two dollars and give him a fake turkey. They never found him!” That is a Thanksgiving experience all of us could be thankful to have never had happen to us! Let me conclude this perspective with one of the most powerful quotes I have ever come across on the Transforming power of a grateful heart. It is a quote by author Melody Beattie: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity; it can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow”. That Attitude of Gratitude Transforms Thanksgiving into Thanksliving!

 Posted by at 2:09 pm

“Encountering a Living Presence”

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Nov 172019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE; “Encountering a Living Presence”.  By:  Ron Woodrum

        Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president of the United States, told a very fascinating story about an encounter he had while getting his hair cut at a Barbershop. Listen to his words: “I was sitting in a barber chair when I was aware that a powerful personality had entered the room. A man had come quietly in upon the same errand as myself to have his hair cut and sat in the chair next to me. Every word that the man uttered, though it was not in the least bit didactic, showed a personal interest in the man who was serving him. And before I got through with what was being done to me I was aware I had attended an evangelistic service, because D.L Moody was in that chair. I purposely lingered in the room after he had left and noted the singular affect that his visit had brought upon the barber shop. They talked in undertones. They did not know his name, but they knew something had elevated their thoughts, and I felt that I left that place as I should have left a place of worship”… (John MacArthur, Matthew, p.236). That is Christian Influence! Do you and I carry a Living Presence of our Loving Lord’s Personality with us? The great Methodist preacher E. Stanley Jones says that “the number one problem of the modern Church today is irrelevancy!” We are not impacting lives as we should! The dynamic presence of our living Lord is notably absent from our lives! People see our lives…but there is nothing out of the ordinary to turn their heads. As Christians we must not settle for that. We need to walk in such a communion with our Lord that our lives turn heads and hearts for Him. Someone has written:

  

 YOU ARE WRITING A GOSPEL

A CHAPTER EACH DAY

BY THE THINGS THAT YOU DO

BY THE WORDS THAT YOU SAY

  

MEN READ WHAT YOU WRITE

WHETHER FAITHLESS OR TRUE

SAY WHAT IS THE GOSPEL

ACCORDING TO YOU?

  

Edgar Guest has another poem entitled “The Living Sermon” He writes:

  

I’d rather see a sermon

than hear one any day

I’d rather you would walk with me

than merely tell the way

   

The eye’s a better pupil

and more willing than the ear.

Fine counsel is confusing

but example is always clear

    

The best of all the preachers

are men who live their creeds

For to see good put into action

is what everybody needs  

    

The lecture you deliver

may be very wise and true

but I’d rather get my lesson

by observing what you do!

   

Eileen Guder chides Christians for not living passionate spiritual lives. She writes: “Live a bland life. Eat bland food. Avoid an ulcer. Drink no coffee, tea, or stimulants in the name of health! Go to bed early. Avoid all night life! Avoid controversy. Never offend anyone! Mind your own business. Never get involved in anybody’s problems. Save all your money for the future, never splurge on anything….and you can still break your neck getting out of the bathtub…and it serves you right! Living a humdrum life never impacts anyone! Fear not your life will come to an end! Fear it never had a beginning!”

Henry Clay Morrison, founder of Asbury Seminary in Kentucky, tells how he was out plowing in the field when a Methodist Circuit Riding preacher came by. The preacher had such a powerful presence about him that he was overwhelmed with conviction for his sin. He dropped to his knees and surrendered to Christ as his Savior. We may not have that kind of presence emanating from us, but we MUST HAVE A PRESENCE THAT IMPACTS LIVES OR WE ARE FAILING OUR LORD! In his book Filled With the Spirit, Richard Ellsworth Day makes this perceptive observation: “It would be no surprise, if a study of secret causes were undertaken, to find that every golden era in human history proceeds from the devotion and righteous passion of some single individual. This does not set aside the sovereignty of God; it simply indicates the instrument through which He uniformly works. There are no bona fide mass movements; it just looks that way! At the center of the column there is always one man who knows His God, and knows where he is going!” Ask God to make you and I those individuals! Those who are living with an encountering Presence!

 Posted by at 3:23 pm

“GOD GIVES JACOB HOLY HEAVEN…AND IT’S ON THE HOUSE!”

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Nov 102019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “GOD GIVES JACOB HOLY HEAVEN…AND IT’S ON THE HOUSE!”  By:  Ron Woodrum

  The book of Genesis makes no attempt to conceal the fact that Jacob was, among other things, a crook. What’s more, you get the feeling that whoever wrote up his seamy adventures got a real kick out of them.

Twice he cheated his lame-brained brother, Esau, out of what was coming to him. At least once he took advantage of the blindness of his old father, Isaac, and played him for a sucker. He outdid his double-crossing father-in-law, Laban, by conning him out of most of his livestock and, later on, when Laban was looking the other way, by sneaking off with not only both the man’s daughters, but just about everything else that wasn’t nailed down including his household gods. Jacob was never satisfied. He wanted the moon, and if he’d ever managed to bilk heaven out of that, he would have been back the next morning for the stars to go with it. But then one day he learned a marvelous lesson in a marvelous and unexpected way.

It happened just after he’d ripped Esau off for the second time and was making his getaway into the hill country to the north. When sunset came and nobody seemed to be after him, he decided that it was safe to camp out for the night and, having left in too much of a hurry to take his bedroll with him, tucked a stone under his head for a pillow and prepared to go to sleep. You might think that what happened next was that he lay there all night bug-eyed as a result of his guilty conscience or, if he did finally manage to drop off, that he was tormented by conscience-stricken dreams, but neither of these was the case. Instead, he dropped off like a baby in a cradle and dreamed the kind of dreams you would have thought were reserved for the high saints.

He dreamed that there was a ladder reaching up to heaven and that there were angels moving up and down it with golden sandals and rainbow-colored wings and that standing somewhere above it was God himself. And the words God spoke in the dream were not the chewing-out you might have expected, but something altogether different. God told Jacob that the land he was lying on was to belong to him and his descendants and that someday his descendants would become a great nation and a great blessing to all the other nations on earth. And as if that wasn’t enough, God then added a personal P.S. by saying, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go.”  

It wasn’t holy hell that God gave him, in other words, but holy heaven, not to mention the marvelous lesson thrown in for good measure. The lesson was, needless to say, that even for a dyed-in-the-wool, double-barreled con artist like Jacob there are a few things in this world you can’t get but can only be given, and one of these things is love in general, and another is the love of God in particular.

Jacob didn’t have to climb his ladder to bilk heaven of the moon and the stars, even if that had been possible, because the moon and the stars looked like peanuts compared to what God and the angels were using the ladder to hand down to him for free.

Another part of the lesson was that, luckily for Jacob, God doesn’t love people because of who they are, but because of who God is. “It’s on the house” is one way of saying it and “It’s by grace” is another, just as it was by grace that it was Jacob of all people who became not only the father of the twelve tribes of Israel, but the many-times great-grandfather of Jesus of Nazareth, and just as it was by grace that Jesus of Nazareth was born into this world at all.

Genesis 25:24-28:17

~originally published in Peculiar Treasures and later in Beyond Words Buechner has also depicted the life of Jacob in his novel Son of Laughter.

 Posted by at 3:38 am

“The greatness of a man is the measure of his surrender!”

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Nov 032019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The greatness of a man is the measure of his surrender!”  By:  Ron Woodrum

  Most of us are very familiar with the ministry of the Salvation Army. We have all given donations to the Red Kettle, and probably many of us have even taken a turn or two at “ringing the bell”.  Every major town or city has its Salvation Army Church and ministry center right in the heart of where it is needed most! That was the aim of their founder from the beginning. William Booth started this ministry in 1865, on the East Side of London England with that very intent. He said, “Go for souls…and go for the worst”. He did that very thing. He encountered and won the prostitutes, gamblers, alcoholics, and homeless beggars to Christ. His ministry revolved around the three “s”‘s-Soup-Soap-Salvation! He was converted under the ministry of John Wesley, carried on by Wesley’s followers after his death in 1791. Booth found Christ at a Methodist revival in 1844, at the age of 15. He said, “I worshipped everything that bore the name Methodist. To me there was one God, and John Wesley was his prophet. I had devoured the story of his life. No human compositions seemed to me to be comparable with his writings…the best hope for the salvation of the world was the faithful carrying into the practice the letter of the spirit of his instructions”. He spent his life doing just that! He said. “The greatness of a man is the measure of his surrender!” In that regard William Booth is a great man and a great example of those who would follow Jesus.

Let me share a few of his impactful quotes. He said, “to get a man soundly saved it is not enough to put on him a pair of new breeches, to give him regular work, or even to give him a University education. These things are all outside a man, and if the inside remains unchanged you have wasted your labor…you must graft on the man’s nature a new nature, which has in it the element of the Divine!” Listen to this: “It is against stupidity in every shape and form that we have to wage eternal battle. But how can we wonder at the want of the sense on the part of those who have had no advantages, when we see such plentiful absence of that commodity on the part of those who have had all the advantages!”. Called to ministry? His view: “Not called! Did you say? Not heard the call. I think you should put your ear to the Bible and hear Him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened agonized hear of humanity and listen to their pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father’s house and bid their brothers and sisters not to come to this place of torment. Then look Christ in the face, whose mercy you have professed to obey, and tell him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish his mercy to the world!” “God loves with a great love the man whose heart is bursting with passion for the impossible!” “We must wake ourselves up or somebody else will take our place, and bear our cross, and steal our crown”.

He said the danger for the future is: “A religion without the Holy Ghost; Christianity without Christ; forgiveness without repentance; salvation without regeneration; politics without God; and heaven without hell!” He was a very perceptive prophet. Listen to his determination. “While women weep, as they do now. I’ll fight. While children go hungry, as they do now-I’ll fight. While men go in and out of prison, as they do now-I’ll fight! While there remains one dark soul without the light of God-I’ll fight. I will fight until the very end!” “We are not to minister to a congregation and be content to keep things going. We are sent to make war and to stop short of nothing but the subjugation of the world to the sway of the Lord Jesus”. When he was asked to speak to a graduation class of clergymen he said, “If I would have had my way you men would not have be graduated with just these studies. I would have had you spend twenty-four hours in hell to experience the torments of those who are damned and then turned you loose on a dying world!”. Toward the end of his life he was unable to attend the annual meetings of his denomination. They asked him to telegraph a message for the congregants. He responded with one word-“Others!” When he was told that the work was failing and they did not know what to do next-he responded with a two-world telegraph-“Try tears!” It would not hurt us to take a refresher course in the theology of General William Booth. He sounds very much like our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen?

 Posted by at 3:31 am

“If they’re breathing-they need Jesus!”

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Oct 272019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “If they’re breathing-they need Jesus!”  By:  Ron Woodrum

  One of the most interesting and convicting authors I have ever read is Mark Cahill. He has only written two books. One is the book One Heartbeat Away: Your Journey into Eternity. It is a disturbing account of how we live with death every second of our lives, and must be prepared for eternity. His follow up book is on witnessing, titled One Thing You Can’t Do In Heaven. In the latter book, in a chapter entitled “If They’re Breathing They Need Jesus!” He tells about a couple witnessing encounters he had with two very famous people. Mark Cahill went to college and played basketball with Charles Barkley. He even roomed with Barkley while the team traveled. They became very good friends, and are still friends today. On one occasion, after their college days, he was speaking at a Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, where Barkley lives. Upon arriving in town, he called Charles to see if they could get together, after the conference that night. Charles said, “absolutely, we’re hanging out tonight at”, (and he mentioned a famous club). Mark asked him who the “we” was. He said, “Quin Buckner, Alex Rodriguez, and Michael Jordan”. He of course accepted. How could he miss an opportunity like that! When Charles introduced Mark to Jordan, he told him, “Michael this is my good friend from college I was telling you about!” All night they talked about basketball, baseball, golf, and occasionally religion, due to input from Mark. As they were leaving, they headed out to the limousine that would take they all to their various destinations. As we walked together toward the car, I said, “Michael, I am speaking in town this week, and I would like to ask you a question”. Michael said, “Ok, shoot!” I asked, “Michael, when you die, what do you think is on the other side? What do you think is out there when we leave here?” Cahill said that a very serious look came over him, he started nodding his head, and was silent for about ten seconds. Then he responded, “I think there are those pearly gates, when we die”. I knew I didn’t have much time; the others were catching up with us. So, I got right to the point, and asked, “Michael have you ever committed your life to Jesus Christ?” Quicker than he leaves the floor for one of his famous jump shots, he shot back “yes I have” and quickly asked, “Have to talked to Barkley about this?” Cahill assured him that he had done that several times. Michael shook his head as he walked away to the limo. He later found out that Jordan used to discuss Jesus a lot with Horace Grant when they played together on the Bulls, but after his father was murdered, he just clammed up about his faith, and refused to talk about it any longer! Even NBA stars need Jesus.

On another occasion, Mark was invited to come to Charles mother’s home in Leeds, Alabama for the holidays. While there he had the opportunity to meet Charles’ family. He really hit it off with Charles brother Daryl. Daryl told Mark, “I recently had a heart attack”. He went on to tell Mark that after the heart attack that he had a near death experience. He said that while in the operating room his spirit rose up out of his body, he saw the doctors and nurses working with his body on the operating table. He said he went on a journey where he saw burning trees, burning grounds all around the base of the trees, then a lake of fire with people in it screaming for help. With terror in his eyes he said, “I saw hell! Then I came back!” Mark asked, “Daryl, if you would have remained dead where would you have gone?” Daryl replied, “I would have gone to hell!” Mark asked, “Do you want to go to hell?” Immediately he answered, “No, I want to go to heaven!” “Do you know what you need to do to go to heaven?” Mark asked. “Yes, committing my heart and life to Jesus Christ”, Daryl affirmed. “Have you done that now?”, Mark inquired. “No-I love the things of the world too much to do that right now!” Mark warned him, that with a bad heart, he was playing Russian Roulette with his soul. Daryl acknowledged the risk he was taking. A few years later, Daryl had another heart attack that took his life. It was March 20, 2009. He died young, at the age of 42. What about his destiny? If you look up Daryl Shawn Barkley…you see his grave which says, “Deacon Daryl Shawn Barkley”…Did he embrace the faith that his mother taught him, and serve his Lord in his final days? If so, that near death wake up call changed his eternity. That is a vision that would be good for all of us to wake up to. We will never be the same for time and eternity. What a difference it could make in the lives we touch for Jesus, while there is still time.

On a grave in a cemetery near Jackson, California are the following words:

  

Remember me as you pass by,

As you are now, so once was I

As I am now, you soon will be

Prepare for death, and follow me.

  

Someone wrote below those words in marker:

 

To follow you, I am not content

Until I know-which way you went!

   

Today’s message should encourage us to encourage everyone to know which way you are going while there is still time!

 Posted by at 3:25 am

The Church’s Last and Lasting Promise

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Oct 202019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: The Church’s Last and Lasting Promise  by:  Ron Woodrum

  The names Saipan, Iwo Jima, Samoa, Guadalcanal, Bataan, Corregidor to name just a few, meant very little to Americans in the early 1940’s. They were just some God-forsaken pieces of real estate somewhere in the South Pacific! But they would soon become household names all across the free world. We were having the time of our lives in this God-blessed America. The Depression was over. We were enjoying all that the world had to offer in this new age of electronic gadgetry. We had new automatic washers and dryers; new toasters; new Sunbeam Mixmaster’s we used to mix our margarine, after dropping in the orange food coloring ball to give it it’s yellow color, and make It look like butter.  We had new automobiles that looked like boats on wheels, with huge long fenders, and men were on the street corners saying, “If the fenders get any longer one of these days, they are going to be one great big fender! I’ll go as far as to say, one of these days they are going to take those running-boards clean off!” We didn’t care about Europe; Germany; or a man named Hitler. We didn’t care about Italy or a guy named Mussolini; We didn’t care about Japan, and a guy named Hirohito. We still had vivid memories of the “War to End All Wars”, and we did not intend to get involved in any new global conflicts!

We watched as the Netherlands fell; we watched as Poland fell; We watched as Neville Chamberlain and the Allies signed Treaty after Treaty with Hitler, and He broke Treaty after Treaty! Chamberlain made so many concessions with Hitler that his name became a synonym with “concession”. When he invaded France, we watched with worried eyes fearing that sooner or later we would become involved, but we were definitely opting for “later”. But December 7,1941, a day FDR said “would live on in infamy” elements of the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked our Naval Base at Pearl Harbor destroying 15 ships, killing 2,402 Americans, and wounding 1,282, while simultaneously attacking the Philippines, Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Attacking us and the Philippines they “kicked the sleeping giant” and our President declared war immediately! Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was made the Commander and Chief over our forces in the European theater, while Gen. Douglas MacArthur was placed over the forces in the Asian theater. The Japanese proved themselves strong as our forces met defeat on the Island of Bataan. Bataan fell and we moved to Corregidor, that Island nicknamed “the Crimson Island” due to the 1,000’s of gallons of American blood spilled on it. When things did not go any better on Corregidor MacArthur, at the command of Roosevelt, decided to go to Australia to regroup so that he could come back and win the war in “American fashion” in a day and age when we fought wars to win wars! But it was a sad, sad day when we left the Philippines! The Filipinos watched as we prepared to leave. Their eyes were fixed on that Great Benefactor, who represented everything that was good, from that Utopia called America. Surrounded by terrified Filipino soldiers, who feared the worst, and would not be disappointed, MacArthur stepped up on the ladder of that DC3 plane, turned and spoke the words that would become “household words” all over the free world. He told them- “I WILL RETURN!” The day he left was March 11, 1942.

After we left the Filipinos suffered greatly at the hands of the Japanese over the next two- and one-half years. They were imprisoned. They were tortured. They were made to march the Bataan death march where over 60,000 died. They kept watching day after day. Waiting day after day for the promise to be fulfilled. One day off in the distance, they heard the rumbling sound of thunder. The skies grew dark. It was the rising crescendo of deliverance. The sun was blotted out with the planes that filled the sky. Those planes had the red stars and blue stripes! Suddenly the skies filled with paratroopers over the islands of the S.Pacific. Soon they heard the words of that great General-“I HAVE RETURNED!” The day was October 22, 1944. Their deliverer had kept his promise and returned in victory.

Two thousand years ago, another General stood on the Mt. of Olives. He too was leaving. His troops, the disciples were surrounding Him. They too feared the worst and they too would not be disappointed. They would suffer at the hands of a Nero-led Roman world. They would be crucified. They would be beheaded. They would be set-afire as candles to light the gardens and racetracks as Nero would race his chariots. They would be boiled-to-death in hot oil. They would be chained together and forced to walk into the Mediterranean to their death for their faith. He looked into their terrified eyes and spoke the words, “Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, Believe also in me. In My Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go away, I WILL COME AGAIN, AND RECEIVE YOU UP UNTO MYSELF, THAT WHERE I AM YOU SHALL BE ALSO”. (John 14:1-3). Over the years we too have suffered. The Church has been persecuted and prospered. But the hope of every generation, as our eyes watch the skies, and we wait with great anticipation has been for our Deliverer who promised us that Blessed Hope of returning to keep His promise for us. The verses are many. The Scripture says, “In a little while He that shall come, will come” (Heb. 10:37). “The Lord shall descend from Heaven with a sound of a trumpet, and the voice of the archangel, and the dead in Christ shall rises first, and we who are alive and remain shall be caught up to meet Him in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (I Thes. 4:12-18). It says that, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in the twinkling of an eye, when this mortal shall put on immortality” (I Cor. 15:51). It says we are “citizens of Heaven, from which we look for our Savior who shall transform our lowly bodies, and fashion them like unto glorious body” (Philippians 3:20). We wait for that “Blessed Hope and Glorious Appearing of our Great God and Savior the Lord Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). That next event on the prophetic calendar is what we are waiting for. When Jesus the Bridegroom left us here, He promised, as all espoused grooms of His day did, to go to the Father’s house-prepare the place-when ready come back and claim her to Himself! That event is called the Rapture. That is what our subject is today. It is closer than we can imagine. As we watch all of the events that will be actualized during the tribulation and precede His second coming with HIs Saints, we cannot help but realize that at least 7 years prior to that He will come for His saints, (the Church). Jesus said, “when you begin to see these things come to pass lift up your heads for your redemption draweth night and watch and pray that you might be counted worthy to escape ALL these things that shall come upon the earth and stand before the Son of Man”. (Luke 21:28 & 36)

Even the French Scientist Pierre Berchelt, over 150 years ago, recognized the signs of the times when he said, in his book Re-Entry,” In side of one hundred years of physical and chemical science, man will know what the atom is. It is my belief, that when science reaches that stage, God will come down to earth with His big ring of keys, and say to humanity, ‘Gentlemen, it’s closing time!'” Before that time comes the Church, who was told by Jesus, their groom, to “occupy til I come” i.e. “carry out business, needs to heed the words of Vance Havner, “It does no good to revel among the clouds of prophetic truth if it stir us not to practice it on the cobblestones questing for souls…prophetic truth , like all other truth, should be fuel for the fires of evangelism…It is not enough to lament the apostasy so vividly described in the book of Jude. It is not enough to build ourselves up in the faith; it is not enough to pray in the Holy Ghost; to keep ourselves in the love of God; to look for the mercy of the Lord. There is further duty-“and of some have compassion, making a difference…saving them with fear, pulling them out of the fire…hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 23).

 Posted by at 3:15 am

“The Right Side of the Cross”

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Oct 132019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The Right Side of the Cross”. By:  Ron Woodrum

  As you read the New Testament narratives that describe the Cross of Jesus Christ you follow his footsteps along the Via Dolorosa-The way of suffering. On this crosswalk there were various Divine appointments that Jesus had with certain individuals as this cross walk intersected with the lives of these individuals. Their lives were changed forever-some for the better some for the worse! Pilate’s life was changed for the worse, which eventually ended in his suicide. Simon of Cyrene was changed for the better, and the lives of his wife and children Alexander and Rufus. There were two individuals that died with Jesus. They were two thieves that died on opposite sides of His center cross. Jesus, and His cross, not only divides history, but the people of history. All the gospels record the fact that Jesus died between two criminals, one on the left and one on the right. Matthew calls them “robbers” (lestai). Mark uses the same term, quoting it as the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:12. Luke says that they “were two criminals” (kakourgougoi). What is the difference? According to Josephus neither of those words were the common word for thief. He says the common word for “thief” was-“kleptos”- (kleptomaniac?)-The word “lestai”-was used of those who “robbed as an activity in insurrection and revolution”. In other words, they were a part of Barabbas band of revolutionary robbers that terrorized the Roman soldiers and citizens. The term that Luke uses is a compound word that is very expressive. Kakos-“evil”-Ourgos-“workers”. He puts the emphasis on their evil character that was bent toward evil and criminal activity. John simply states that Jesus died with two others…with “Jesus in the center”. What a picture! Jesus the divider of men! On the left side of the cross is an evil doer-a robber…a revolutionary. He is dying for his own sins. He remains unrepentant and blasphemes the Son of God. He is, as the Book of Hebrews says, “trampling under foot the Son of God”. In the center is Jesus, the Sinless Son of God. He is not dying for His own sin for He had none. The Bible says, “He who knew no sin became sin for us”. Pilate said, “I find no fault in Him”. The other thief, an evil doer also, says-“We are dying for our own crimes, but this man hath done nothing amiss!” The Centurion will say, “Surely this was the Son of God”. Max Lucado says, “there sits God, in silence, while the sins of the world is placed upon Him. Was it right? No! Was it fair? No! Was it love? Absolutely! In a world of injustice, God once-for-all tipped the scales in favor of hope!” The thief, on the right side of the cross stops in mid sentence, after hearing Jesus pray for His executioners, and realizes that he too needs that forgiveness, and is included in that prayer request that Jesus addresses to His Father. He in turn requests of Jesus, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. What did he mean by that?

John Drury quotes the ancient Sicilian historian Diodorus Siculus about a Sicilian slave named Eunus, who kept telling other he would one day be free, and would rule as the King of Sicily. His master’s friends mocked him and taunted him by saying, “Remember us when you come into your kingdom”. How are we to understand this thief on the right side of the cross? Were his words a taunt? Irony? More railing, like the words of the thief on the left side? I don’t think so! The great Southern Baptist Scholar, E. Earle Ellis, in his book Christ and the Future in New Testament History, is more accurate concerning the meaning of this criminal’s plea. Dr. Ellis verifies that the words “Remember Me” were common inscriptions on several graves in Palestine in the first century. Many who died in that day, had evidence on their tombstones that they had a hope, a desire, a concern about being remembered as one worthy of resurrection and heaven. This thief simply shares his heart concern with Jesus, before his family will have opportunity to write it on his tomb! Jesus answered, not with a vague reference to future resurrection and bliss. He gives him the assurance of eternal life will be his possession this very day, as he accompanies Jesus into the very “paradise of God”, the recipient of a gift and passport to paradise because he was on the “right side of the cross”-i.e. “the believing side of the cross!”

John Piper has a beautiful poem entitled “Justified” that expresses this great truth so beautifully. Let me share it with you:

 

Justified

 

 It was as though a thousand layers

Of fraud, and murder, and affairs

Each wrapped around his shrinking heart,

And hard as steel, had come apart

 

He hung there silent, numb, and hoarse

And filthy language of his soul

Dried scarlet on the splintered pole

 

No strength remained to comprehend

How these few quiet words, could rend

The wicked wineskins of his life

Where every other moral knife

 

Had snapped like twigs against the rock

The Lord, and joined them at the first

He saw Him keep His peace, and thirst,

And with this tongue he whipped and sliced

The folly of this feeble Christ

  

And then by some strange providence

Of grace, above his impudence

He heard the word of Life-not preached

But whispered low, and that it reached

His ear above the blasphemy

Of his own lips was gift, as free

As gifts could ever be

He heard above the mockery, the Word

  

“Oh Father, please forgive, I beg of you

Forgive, they know not what they do”

A curse half-formed beneath his teeth,

Fell silent to the ground beneath,

Like slaving ropes and prison chains,

Like fears and rage and guilt and pains

  

But now his vicious mouth was still

And something deep within his will

Begotten by the quiet prayer

Of this reputed King was there

And firm from his lips there came a word

That no one else had ever heard

He turned his head so he could see.

“Jesus is there any hope for me?”

  

At first he feared the Lord was dead

But then He lifted up His head

“Today with me in paradise,

You’ll reign beside this Risen Christ!”

   

And do we not this time of year

Repeat these words with Godly fear

And stand in awe of Sovereign Grace.

That put our God in the sinner’s place

And turned His head to hear our plea!

Who is a pardoning God like Thee?

  

The awesome truth of Candle Three:

A sinner justified and free!

 Posted by at 3:02 am

“The Burden of Living in All Three Tenses-at One Time!”

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Oct 062019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The Burden of Living in All Three Tenses-at One Time!”  By:  Ron Woodrum

In his book-For The Living of These Days, William M. Elliott Jr. observes, “The reason 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 even the strongest falter!” Perhaps this helps us understand why the Word of God repeatedly tells us the fact that man’s time on this earth is measured in terms of days! Hear these witnesses: “Our days upon earth are a shadow” (Job 8:9); “Are thy days as the days of man? Are thy years as man’s days?” Job asks… (Job 10:5); “Man that is born of a woman is of few days” (Job 14:1); So, Moses prays, “Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). That is one lesson it seems to take a lifetime for all of us to finally learn it. I came across a story, written by a songwriter, turned newspaper column writer by the name of Billy Rose. He had a famous column years ago called “Pitching Horseshoes”. One of his stories speaks to this very issue of learning to slow down and let God give us his perspective on life and how to live it in such a way to make an impact for Him, instead of letting it go by in a hectic hurry, and coming to an end with regret and sorrow. We still have time to rewrite our story! Slow down and live it for Him…while you still have the “days” of your life.

Here is that story, from “Pitching Horseshoes”: “There was once a fellow who, with his father, farmed a little piece of land. Several times a year they would load up their ox cart with vegetables and drive to the nearest city. Except for their name and the patch of ground, father and son had little in common. The old man believed in taking it easy…and the son was the go-getter type. One morning, they loaded the cart, hitched up the ox, and set out. The young man figured that if they kept going all day and night, they’d get to the market by the next morning. He walked alongside the ox and kept prodding it with a stick. ‘Take it easy’ said the old man, ‘you’ll last longer!’ ‘If we get to the market ahead of the others’ said the son, ‘we have a better chance of getting good prices for our vegetables’. The old man pulled his hat down over his eyes and went to sleep on the seat, four miles down the road they came to a little house. ‘Here is your uncle’s place’ said the father waking up, ‘Let’s stop and say hello’. ‘We’ve lost an hour already’, complained the go-getter. ‘Then a few more minutes won’t matter!’ said the father, ‘My brother and I live so close, but we seldom see each other’. The young man fidgeted while the two old gentlemen gossiped away for an hour. On the move again, the father took his turn leading the ox. By and by, they came to a fork in the road. The old man directed the ox to the right. ‘The left is the shorter way’, said the boy. ‘I know it’, said the old man, ‘but this way is the scenic way’. ‘Have you no respect for time?’ asked the impatient son. ‘I respect it very much!’, said the father, ‘that is why I use it to take in this beautiful scenery’. The right path led through the woodlands filled with blossoming wild flowers that would take your breath away. They only irritated the young man! He was too busy watching the sinking sun. Twilight found them in what looked like one big garden. ‘Let’s sleep here’ said the old man. ‘This is the last trip I take with you! replied his son. ‘You’re more interested in flowers than in making money!’ he scolded. ‘That’s the nicest thing you said in a long time!’, replied his dad. A minute later he was asleep. A little before dawn, the young man shook his father awake, and they went on. After a mile and an hour, they came upon a farmer trying to pull his cart out of a ditch. ‘Let’s give him a hand’, said the farmer. ‘And lose more time?’, exploded the son. ‘Relax’ said the old man. ‘You might be in a ditch some time yourself”. By the time the other cart was back on the road, it was almost eight o’clock. Suddenly a great flash of lightning split the sky. Then there was thunder. Beyond the hills, the heavens grew dark. ‘Looks like a big rain in the city’, said the old man. ‘If we had been on time, we’d be sold out by now, and on our way back’, grumbled the son. ‘Take it easy’, the old man said, ‘you’ll last longer!’ It wasn’t until late afternoon that they got to the top of the hill overlooking the town. They looked down on it…for a very long time! Neither of them spoke a word. Finally, the young man who had been in such a hurry said, ‘I see what you mean now father’. They turned their cart around and headed back home…and drove away from the city that had once been the city of Hiroshima, Japan!” LORD TEACH US TO NUMBER OUR DAYS, AND LIVE IT OUT FOR YOU…ONE DAY AT A TIME. IT’S A BURDEN TO LIVE IN ALL THREE TENSES AT ONE TIME!

 Posted by at 2:44 am

“The Black Velvet that Displays the Diamond of the Love of God”.

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Sep 222019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The Black Velvet that Displays the Diamond of the Love of God”. By:  Ron Woodrum

 The Parable of the Prodigal Son has been called “The Most Beautiful Story Ever Told!”– (William Cowper-Hymn writer). It has been called “The greatest short story ever written-with such drama that is so clear and precise that everyone can relate to it-and cannot miss its central point” (Max Lucado-author). It was called a “Lifeline to God” by Fyodor Doestevesky. Rembrandt was so touched by it, his last painting put an exclamation point on all of his masterpieces! That very painting captivated Dutch Theologian Henry Nouwen for over four hours, after which he wrote his most important book-The Return of the Prodigal Son. He said, “I become the Prodigal Son every time I seek for unconditional love anywhere but where it can only be found, in the heart of the Father!” The Parable and the painting changed his life and ministry forever. If we would spend a few minutes this morning in meditation on its central message it can do the same for us! Great men of history have been so touched they have written poems and songs as well! We all know the name John Newton. His greatest masterpiece of hymns is the famous Amazing Grace! But he wrote a very touching summary of the Parable in a poem. He wrote:

THE PRODIGAL SON by John Newton

Afflictions though they seem severe

In mercy oft they are sent

They stopped the Prodigal’s career

And led him to repent

 

Although he no relentings felt

Till he had spent his store

His stubborn heart began to melt

Though famine pinched him sore

 

 What I have gained by sin he said

But hunger, shame, and fear

My father’s house abounds with bread

While I am starving here

  

I’ll go and tell Him all I’ve done

And fall before His face

Unworthy to be called

His son I’ll seek a servant’s place  

  

His father saw him coming back

He saw, He ran, He smiled

And threw His arms around his neck0

Of His rebellious child

   

Father I have sinned, O please forgive!

I’ve heard enough He said

Rejoice my house, My son’s alive

For whom I mourned as dead!

   

Now let the fatted calf be slain

And spread the news around

My son was dead, but lives again

Was lost, but now is found.

   

 Somehow, we manage to make the prodigal son the central message of this parable. I think that when we do that, we miss the main point Jesus had in mind when He told that story to its original audience. Jesus was telling the audience that they had totally forgotten the true nature of the heart of His Father. The central point of this Parable is that the Father always has, and always will welcome prodigals from the far country of sin and rebellion to come home to His loving forgiveness and restoration. This Parable is about the Loving Father, not the Lost Son! Kenny Bishop has written a song entitled The Prodigal’s Dad. Listen to it on U-tube. Look up the lyrics. It has a remarkable message. It is about the broken heart of our Heavenly Father that goes from Sad to Glad, when his Prodigal Son comes home! That is the message of the Parable we are studying today. That is the thrust of the sermon’s message today! The point of this parable is not the depths of the lostness of the rebellious son. It is the depth of the love of the restoring Father. The depth of the lostness of the son is shown only to highlight the depth of love of the Father. THE LOSTNESS OF THE SON IS THE BLACK VELVET AGAINST WHICH THE DIAMOND OF THE LOVE OF THE FATHER IS DISPLAYED IN ALL OF ITS FACETS AND SPLENDOR! Please don’t miss that. If you do you miss everything!

 Posted by at 2:20 pm

“Jesus in Running Shoes-muscular Christianity with a radiant godliness”.

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Sep 152019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Jesus in Running Shoes-muscular Christianity with a radiant godliness”.  By:  Ron Woodrum

  At the 54th Academy Awards, 1982, honoring the movies of 1981, there were many excellent films vying for the best picture award. There was On Golden Pond, starring Henry Fonda, in his last film, along with Catherine Hepburn, and his daughter Jane Fonda. Fred Astaire starred in his last movie-Ghost Story. Burt Lancaster hoped his film Atlantic City would win the award. Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson had Death Hunt. Then of course there was Harrison Ford in a little-known movie-Raiders of the Lost Ark! There were many more movies and stars that felt deserving. The favorite of the Hollywood crowd was Reds, Starring Warren Beatty; Jack Nicholson, and Diane Keaton. To everyone’s surprise another movie took the top honor…it was Chariots of Fire! It was a movie about two Olympic runners who were willing to sacrifice it all to win Olympic gold medals. One was Harold Abrams, and English Jew, who runs to overcome prejudice, and win the glory for himself, and for his race. The other was Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian, and missionary in training, who runs for the glory of God. His sister Jennie, when hearing that he is competing in the 1924 Olympics try to talk him out of it. She is afraid that the glory will distract him from the call of God on his life. He tells her-“I know that God made me for a purpose, (to be a missionary to China), but He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure!” He did run fast, and the pleasure of God was all over him when he did run. The Guardian newspaper wrote “When he appeared in the heats of the 400 meter run at Paris in 1924 he had a huge sprawling stride, his head thrown back, his face up to heaven, his arms clawing the air, caused the Americans, and other sophisticated experts to deride him with ribald laughter!” A year earlier England had seen his gift of running. In a quarter mile race, he was tripped by another runner named J.J. Gilles as they rounded the first curve. Liddell fell off the track. The runners quickly left him 30 yards behind. The official shouted for Eric to get back in the race. He did just that! He ran at a pace that had him soon pass all the runners before him, passing up Gilles, he crossed the finish line to win the race, collapsing in exhaustion! That earned him the title the “Flying Scotsman!” The Scotsman paper wrote, “The circumstances under which Liddell won that event made it a performance boarding on the miraculous…and in the history of athletics that quarter mile win was the greatest ever track performance ever seen!”

As the events of the 1924 Olympics approached, Eric was the favorite in the 100 Meter Event. When the schedule was announced it became apparent that the 100 Meter Run was on a Sunday. Eric withdrew from the event. He felt that it would dishonor the Lord to run in the event on the Lord’s Day. He withstood national and world pressure to submit. He forfeited glory for conviction. At the last minute he accepted an invitation to run in the 400 Meter one that he had never trained for. When asked how he would win that race he said, “I will run the first 200 meters as fast as I can, for the second 200 meters, with God’s help I will run even harder!” That is exactly what he did. In crippling heat, he ran the first 200 meters in 22.2 seconds. The American challenger said, “I could not believe a man could set such a pace and keep it up to the finish”. In spite of the American straining every nerve and muscle he finished second behind Liddell. It was said, “Liddell ran the entire race in a sprint as a man possessed”. He set the world record of 47.6 in an event he had never planned to ever run! After finishing the race, and winning the gold medal Eric told those who encouraged him to continue his career as an Olympic runner these words-“It has been a wonderful experience to compete in the Olympic games and to win a gold medal. But since I have been a young lad, I HAVE HAD MY EYE ON A DIFFERENT PRIZE. You see each of us is in a GREATER race than the one I have run here in Paris, and this race ends when God gives out His medals”.

Eric finished his theological education and went as a missionary to China. When asked if he regretted that choice he said, “It is natural for a chap to think over all that at times, but I’m glad for the work I am engaged in now. A fellow’s life counts for far more at this than the other!” He certainly did make his life count for so much more! He served as a missionary to China from 1926-1945. After China was occupied by the Japanese in 1942 all missionary work became dangerous. Eric sent his wife and daughters home to Canada, and hoped to join them soon. But in March of 1943 he, along with all other foreigners were imprisoned in an Internment Camp by the Japanese. Eric continued his work without missing a beat. he taught the young people both secular and spiritual subjects. He organized sports to keep them occupied, and even refereed their games. he was fondly known as “Uncle Eric”. He gave special care to older people, the weak and the ill. Despite the squalor of open cesspools, rats, flies, and disease, he made life in this hellish place a normal routine for those imprisoned there. Had it not been for Eric many would never have survived. Mary Taylor Previte, who had been there as a young girl prisoner, said “Uncle Eric was like Jesus in Running Shoes”. Another prisoner said, “None of us will ever forget this man who was totally committed to putting God first, a man who combined muscular Christianity with radiant godliness!” Another Pastor interred there wrote, “He became the moral and spiritual leader of the horrifying reality of that camp”. Landon Gilkey, a liberal Pastor who was there at the same time, wrote “It is rare indeed when a person has the good fortune to meet a saint, He came as close as anyone I have ever known!” Others said he had one desire-“to see every man, woman, boy and girl in China to come to know Jesus as their Savior!” In the latter years of his imprisonment Eric was stricken with a brain tumor. His body grew weak. He spent his last days in the infirmary. On February 21, 1945 Eric finished a letter to his wife and daughters from his sick bed. He spoke to a friend, “It is full surrender”, and he fell into a coma and died shortly thereafter. As the movie Chariots of Fire reveals at the end, “All Scotland mourned his death”. What the movie did not tell us is that “Heaven’s Great Cloud of Witnesses cheered as Eric crossed the finish line to that Greater Race and won a Different Medal, one that God gives to those who sacrifice everything for Him”. Eric had often said that too many “miss the best by settling for the second best!” He made the right choice. The title of the movie Chariots of Fire has a deep meaning. It was chosen from a poem by William Blake called Jerusalem.

 

  Jerusalem

 

And did those feet in Ancient Time

Walk upon England’s mountains green

And was the Holy Lamb of God

On England’s pleasant Pastures Seen!

  

Bring me my Bow of Burning Gold

Bring me my Arrows of Desire

Bring me my Spear: Oh clouds unfold

Bring me my Chariot of Fire

  

I will not cease from mental fight

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand

Til we have built Jerusalem

In England’s green and pleasant land!

  

That was Eric Liddell’s desire for his country. When it becomes our desire for ours then we too will have made the first choice, and we too will have chosen the different prize of the greater race, that alone is worth sacrificing everything to stand in that winner’s circle. Run your race!

 Posted by at 10:00 pm