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“Rough Winds of Persecution Transformed into Winds of Propagation!”

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Feb 242019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Rough Winds of Persecution Transformed into Winds of Propagation!” By:  Ron Woodrum

  Thomas Carlyle used to say that the easy, chatty optimism of Ralph Waldo Emerson maddened him. In his opinion “no really dark shadow had ever fallen across Emerson’s sheltered life”. He said that Emerson “seemed like a man who, standing well back from the least touch of spray from the storm, throws chatty observations about the beauty of the weather to a poor man battling for his life in huge waves that are beating upon him and threatening to sweep him away!” Perhaps Carlyle was right about Emerson, we cannot say. But personal experience in the marketplace of human existence tells us all that somewhere between sunrise and sunset, everyone will feel the harsh winds of opposition upon our faces. What is true of individuals is also true of the Church, at any given time in history. The Church had seen some opposition during the days of its infancy. If the world hated their Lord, they too would feel that animosity at some time or another, in some way or another. Jesus had promised them that. But during the early days, recorded in Luke’s narrative in the Book of Acts, those winds did not blow harshly at first. We read of the Church, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, penetrating the Graeco-Roman world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, turning it upside down, taking the Church from Jerusalem to Rome in only two decades! But as the Children of Israel found out-things can change in a New York minute. When a Pharaoh that knew not Joseph came to power, their position went from privileged to persecuted immediately. So with the Church. Beginning with Emperor Claudius and running through Diocletian, the Church faced the ever-increasing winds of persecution blowing their way all throughout the Roman Empire. This persecution would become so intense that it threatened the very existence of the Church. Many then, and now, question why the Sovereign God would allow such a thing to happen to His faithful people.

Frank W. Boreham, in his book Cliffs of Opal, explains the necessity of such suffering in order to impact the Roman world of that day with an even greater impact! He writes, “If Jesus, the Son of God, had died His bitter death on Calvary’s tree, and left it at that, would that have saved the world? Of course not! The world at large would have never heard of it. The tragic incident would have passed into oblivion within a year or two. Just another political execution off in a distant Roman Province. In order for that redeeming sacrifice might be made effective, and the world be saved by means of it, it was necessary for the Apostles to suffer and die proclaiming it, for the martyrs to lay down their lives defending it, for missionaries like Xavier, and Livingstone, and Patterson, and Williams, and Chalmers to seal it with their blood. That would be their testimony to its virtue. Every death on a foreign shore, every tear shed for the Gospel’s sake, every jibe or sneer patiently endured out of love for Christ, is an augmentation of the awful tragedy of Golgotha. It is the wonder of wonders that He who died upon that bitter tree to redeem mankind associates each of us with Himself in that Divine and sacrificial work!” A.T. Pierson, in his book The Bible and The Spiritual Life, explains how that God used such sacrifice and suffering on the part of His saints to impact them, and the world that witnessed their suffering, to reflect the glory and grace of their Crucified Savior to the World. He wrote, “God allows it in order to perfect His saints. He puts His precious metal into His crucible. But He watches it. His love is His thermometer, and He marks the exact degree of heat, not one instant’s unnecessary pang will He permit; as soon as the dross is released and He sees Himself reflected in them, the trial immediately ceases!” His martyrs all testified to His sustaining grace being sufficient for the moment. What an impact their witness had.

Soon the road of persecution led to the newly built Colosseum. It became the center of attention for the public display of The Sacrifice of Christ being magnified through the testimonies and deaths of His martyrs. Vance Havner, in his book Hearts Aflame, pays a fitting tribute to these courageous Christians. He writes, “If we had sat in the grandstands amidst the grandeur that was Rome we might have been deceived. For it was not the howling mob in the Colosseum that determined the course of history. Underground in the catacombs another force was at work. A handful of men and women who worshipped another King called Jesus, who had died and risen, and was coming back someday-here was the beginning of the Empire within the Empire, the Christians beneath the Caesars! They crept along the subterranean passageways and tunnels, among the tombs and caverns, hunted and persecuted as the scum of the earth. If we would have prowled the gloomy depths we might have come upon little companies singing, listening to the Gospel message, observing the Lord’s Supper. The verdict might have been this little group doesn’t stand a chance! But the Christian Underground upset the Caesars above ground. The Catacombs overcame the Colosseum…and put it out of business! That fellowship who loved Jesus more than they loved their own lives, who were in the world, but not of it, whose blood was the seed of the Church…were on fire with the passion that Roman swords could not kill, nor waters of the Mediterranean Sea could drown, nor the fierce flames of fire could destroy nor silence. Their blood was spilled so freely and often in that arena that when a traveler asked if he might take a relic with him, was told take a handful of sand from the Colosseum. It is all martyrs!”

Need we say more? That kind of devotion withstands the howling winds of persecution and shifts the direction back toward its source, transforming them into winds of propagation! Let those winds blow…world wide!

 Posted by at 1:57 pm

“THE DISMAL COMPANY…ONLY TO SELF TRUE!”

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Feb 172019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “THE DISMAL COMPANY…ONLY TO SELF TRUE!”  By:  Ron Woodrum

      There is an unusual quote, from a very unusual source, that God recently brought to my attention that describes our world today, both those inside and outside the Church, quite accurately. It describes our most destructive attitude that perpetrates and perpetuates our dilemma. It comes from Dante Alighieri. Who in the world is that Pastor? That is the full name of the famous Dante of Dante’s Inferno: The Divine Comedy. Few of us read his work anymore that describes the medieval view of Hell. While being given a tour of Hell Dante hears sighing, crying weeping, wailing and railing. He writes, “At first I wept at such wailing and lamentations…shrieks, yells, and groans. Whereupon I asked, ‘Master what is this I hear?’ ‘Who can these people be, so distraught with grief?’ He answered, ‘THE DISMAL COMPANY, OH WRETCHED SPIRITS THAT FIND THEIR RECOMPENSE DUE, WHOSE LIVES KNEW NEITHER PRAISE NOR INFAMY…WHO AGAINST GOD REBELLED NOT, NOR TO HIM WERE FAITHFUL, BUT ONLY TO SELF WERE TRUE!’ “They tell us the road to hell is paved with “good intentions”. The residence of hell is filled with “great regret”. The residents of hell will be eternally quoting the words of John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem-“For of all sad words of tongue or pen-the saddest are it might have been”. But hell is not the only place of regret. When we all get to heaven, and look back over the opportunities of our lives, that poem will also express the feelings of many of God’s saints too.

The great tragedy of our time is that we have chosen who and what will come first in our lives, and it is not God! It is ourselves. We come first. We live for ourselves. We are true to ourselves. We want to include God in our lives, on our terms. We have not rebelled against Him that much, but we have not been sold-out faithful to Him either. Our lives do not deserve praise neither infamy. What a tragedy! If we do not take specific action to put God first in our lives -the kind of action that Rick Warren made clear and popular in his book The Purpose Driven Life-we may find our lives lived only for ourselves, and making no impact for eternity. I am fond of a description from a nineteenth-century writer Van Wyck Brooks, who described his futile life, in his autobiography by saying that as he surveyed his life he concluded that his efforts had been sown in an environment where they could not grow and not even a furrow remained from where he had ploughed. His words are so descriptive of futility-it is as if he had been “ploughing the sea!” The great Irish Poet W. B. Yeats wrote in a similar vein in his memoir Reveries: “All life, weighed in the scale of my own life seems a preparation for something that never happens!” That is the tragedy of most of our Christian lives. We intend to put God first; to live a surrendered life; to witness and win others to Christ; to make an impact for Him; to do things that will be worthy of Him saying to us in that day-“Well done thou good and faithful servant“. But we have been “ploughing the sea” and can’t even retrace where we’ve been. Our lives…always preparing for impact for Jesus…but “nothing ever happens!”

Greg Levoy calls this the “common cold of the soul”. He says our lives are filled with “Sinful patterns of behavior that never get confronted and changed. Abilities and gifts that never get cultivated and deployed–until weeks become months, and months turn into years, and one day you’re looking back on a life of deep intimate, gut-wrenching honest conversations you never had; great bold prayers you never prayed; exhilarating risks you never took; sacrificial gifts you never gave; lives you never touched; and you’re sitting in a recliner with a shriveled soul and forgotten dreams, and you realize there was a world of desperate need, and a great God calling you to be part of something bigger than yourself-you see the person you could have become but did not; You never followed your calling; you never got out of the boat; if you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat. Most of us have never gotten out of the boat!”

Garrison Keillor, in a story called “A Day in the Life of Clarence Bunsen” tells of an older man who realizes that life has slipped away and his life has missed something. He goes to see Father Emil for advice and comes away empty. He goes back to a hill that overlooks his childhood hang-out at Lake Woebegone and watches kids playing and reflects on his life. He thinks to himself, “I wish I could be like that. I just seem to go through life with my eyes closed and my ears shut. People talk to me, and I don’t seem to hear them. Whole days go by, and I can’t remember what happened. The woman I’ve lived with for thirty-six years, if you asked me to describe her, I’d have to stop and think about it. It’s like I’ve lived half my life waiting for my life to begin, thinking it’s off somewhere in the future, and now I am thinking about death all the time. It’s time to live, time to wake up and do something!” Henry David Thoreau summarized what Clarence Bunsen might have been trying to say, when he said, “I did not wish to live what was not life…I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life!” We could take a tip from Pablo Picasso. He wrote, “When a man knows how to do something-he ceases to be a man when he stops doing it!” James put it this way, “He that knoweth to do good and doeth it not…to him it is sin!” (James 4:17). We need to take purpose-driven steps to avoid the “Dismal company-being only true to ourselves”. We need to quit “ploughing the sea” quit living life with good intentions “preparing for something that never happens!” Get over our “common colds of the soul” and “wake up and live that life of impact for Christ now!” “Do not live life that is not life-suck all the marrow out” and once we begin, “never stop doing it!” That is the path to an eternity with “No Regrets!”

 Posted by at 1:49 pm

“LAST DAY BATTLEFIELD-THE HEART OF MAN”

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Feb 102019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “LAST DAY BATTLEFIELD-THE HEART OF MAN”  —  By Ron Woodrum

In his book, The Brother’s Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky poignantly states, “The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man“. That battle involves recognizing truth-God’s truth. The devil is, and always has been, in the business of perverting God’s truth into a lie, and getting man to believe it, and thus choose the path of error and destruction. He is a master of deception and his lies are passing for truth quite successfully in our Post-Christian world. Paul warned us that in the last days we would be inundated with “doctrines of demons“( I Tim. 4:1), and that God would let the world “believe a lie, because they believed not the truth” (II Thes. 2:11). Man’s problem today is not knowing the truth, but “suppressing” and “rejecting” the truth in exchange for a lie. Dostoevsky warned about that too. He wrote, “Above all don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lies comes to the point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others, and having no respect he ceases to know love“. That I believe is a very accurate description of the very condition modern man finds himself in. David Roper, in his book A Beacon in the Darkness, hits the nail on the head, when he writes, “We live in a world of cosmic deceit, hidden agendas, treacherous motivations, illusions, and lies. And Satan is behind it all. His strategy is to deceive. His objective is to destroy. His shrewd cruel mind is behind the lies that buffet us all day long, the media messages that encourage us to ‘find ourselves’ in something other than the living God, to go for the gusto, but to leave the Savior out. The lie comes into the world in the guise of beauty and good, (our minds are repelled by ugliness and obvious evil), but the deceit inevitably sickens the soul and it begins to die. For when Satan has accomplished his purpose and separated men and women from God, what can they do but wither and die eternally?” That is why Isaiah warned, “Woe to them that call evil good, and good evil; that call darkness light, and light darkness” ( Isaiah 5:20). Denis deRougement, in a book entitled The Devil’s Share, clarifies the plight of our modern world with more clarity than anyone I have ever read. He says the problem today is compounded by the difference between a lie and a pure lie. This is what he says, “There are two ways of lying, as there are two ways of deceiving a customer. If a scale registers 15 ounces, you can say, ‘it is a pound’. Your lie will remain relative to an invariable measure of the true. If the customer checks it he can see that he is being robbed, and he knows by how much you are robbing him; a truth remains as a judge between you. But if you tamper with the scale itself, it is the criterion of the truth which is denatured; there is no longer any possible control. And little by little you will forget that you are cheating. You may even bet that you will exercise all your scruples in giving exact weight, perhaps by adding a few pinches for ‘good measure’, for the smile of the buyer and the satisfaction of your virtue. That is ‘pure lying’, the moment you falsify the scale of truth itself, all your virtues are at the service of evil and are accomplices in its contagion“. The devil has tampered with the scale. He has caused us to throw out the accurate scale of God’s inspired Word, and receive his counterfeit scale. When the standard is corrupted, even honorable people become agents of evil. They believe they are doing right when in fact what they are doing is dead wrong, and they unwittingly foist their wrong-doing on others. That is what has happened today. Satan has moved the parameters so that even ‘principled people’ have been brought into the service of evil. Their lack of a fixed reference point has led them into profound moral confusion and deep sense of insecurity. I saw a cartoon once depicting two people talking. One said to the other, “I still believe in evil-I just don’t know what qualifies!” People still believe in good and evil, it’s just that no one knows where the parameters are anymore-and that makes for a very dangerous and uncertain world! Black is white; white is black; up is down, and down is up; we are turned loose, without an anchor, of a raging sea helplessly tossed about by whichever way the cultural wind blows. We will end up destroyed on the rocks unless we turn back to the Word that transcends culture and circumstance, and is older than time!

It seems to me that Norman Maclean raises that question in his book A River Runs Through It. His book and Robert Redford’s movie about how A Presbyterian minister tries to teach his sons about life through fly fishing and spiritual wisdom. One son seems to find the truth, while the other refuses the guidance and help and remains a free-spirited son who drinks too much, lives too fast, and eventually loses his life in a back-alley brawl. The father tries, through the medium of fly fishing, to pass on to his sons the underlying, unchanging values of his life. Maclean recalls one streamside exchange with his father: “‘What have you been reading?’I asked. ‘A book’, my father replied. It was on the ground on the other side of him. So I would not have to bother to look over his knees to see it, he said, ‘A good Book’. Then he told me, ‘in the part I was reading it says the Word was in the beginning, and that’s right. I used to think that water was first, but if you listen carefully you will hear the words underneath the water’. ‘That’s because you’re a preacher first and then a fisherman’, I told him. ‘No’, my father said, ‘You are not listening carefully. The water runs over the words. Paul will tell you the same thing.’ I looked to see where the book was left open and knew just enough Greek to recognize ‘logos’ as the Word. I guessed from it and from the argument that I was looking at the first verse of John’ “. Mclean emphasizes that we can take the truth and try to help but it has to be received, not rejected. Mclean writes, “Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know are the ones who elude us. But we can still love them-we can love completely without complete understanding”.

In today’s message we are considering how in the last days, Christ’s Church will find itself living in the location where Satan’s throne is. The Church will be challenged by the world to accept the deception that the devil has pawned off as truth. Some will hold fast to the truth, while others will defect and forsake the Lord and Savior who saved them. Jesus comes, as the one speaking a sharp two-edged sword from his mouth, cutting through all the deception with His truth. Only those willing to welcome the word will be enabled to stand fast in a world where the devil is tampering with the scale of truth!

 Posted by at 2:44 pm

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

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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”.

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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”

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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!”

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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”

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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!”

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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!”

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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