“Social Distancing-The End of the World As We Know It?”

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Mar 152020
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Social Distancing-The End of the World As We Know It?”  By:  Ron Woodrum

  Lorie Hill wrote a poem titled In Like A Lion, Out Like A Lamb. It goes like this:

“March roars in like a lion

So fierce,

The wind so cold

It seems to pierce

  

The month rolls on

And Spring draws near

And March goes out

Like a Lamb so dear”.

  

  That was on our mind as we entered the month of March 2020. How would the weather be? In like a Lamb? Out like a Lion? We were also thinking about “bracketology” and March Madness. The Cubs and Cardinals were on our mind…who would win the rivalry this year? Most of us did not see the storm brewing on the horizon, one that had been coming our way since the last month of 2019. Hubei province, in Central China, the city of Wuhan, the Detroit City of China, was being invaded by the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. We watch reluctantly with worried eyes as over 80,000 came down with this new virus, and over 3,000 died. We watched as it spread to Iran, Italy, Spain, Europe, and now to nearly every State in our United States. But like other world pandemics-SARS, MERS, Ebola, N1H1, never in the United States of America. But we have watched this virus come in like a Lion, and it certainly doesn’t appear to go out like a Lamb. Unbelievably it has in a couple of weeks, silenced all the March Madness; Major League Baseball; Basketball; Hockey; concerts; schools; libraries; It has brought back echoes of the old REM song from 1987-“It’s The End of the World As We Know It!” America is wondering, in spite of all the voices assuring us all is well, is this a harbinger of the Apocalypse? After all is not one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse the Pale Rider of Pestilence? It brings to my mind the poem by T.S. Eliot, the Christian poet of last century, the poem Hollow Men. He writes about living in the valley of the dying stars; the hollow valley…of our lost kingdoms; the last of the meeting places; the hope of only empty men; over whom the shadow falls. Then he writes:

“This is the way the world ends…

This is the way the world ends…

This is the way the world ends…

Not with a bang-but a whimper”

   

  Are these words prophetically coming true as a last day affirmation of Biblical truth? The crisis of recent days has certainly gotten the world’s attention. The question we have to ask and answer is “does the Church of our generation have anything relevant to say to this terrified world?” Two things are important for the Church. First, we must consider our mindset. How do we face these days we are experiencing? What kind of demeanor do we reflect to a watching world? Paul told young Timothy, that when we face the last days, he needed to remember that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and of a sound mind”. (II Timothy 1:7). The word for fear, is not the normal word “phobias”-but the word “deilias”. That word always has a negative meaning in Scripture. It means “cowardice, timidity, fear of loss”. That kind of fear causes us to withdraw from the circumstances that frighten us. Paul said we should have a mind-set of a “sound-mind”- The word is “sophron”“a mind that is in control, and fits the situation”. When the world panics in the face of a crisis, this Christian mind-set demonstrates a calmness that does not run away from the situation. Someone has defined FEAR as “FALSE -EVIDENCE -APPEARING -REAL”; FAITH as “FRIGHTENED-ALARMED- I- TRUST- HIM”. Jerry Shirley in his recent sermon entitled-AFTER SHOCK: GOING VIRAL says “Now is the time to have faith, not fear; to pray, not panic; to believe God, not blame Him; to be assured, not Angry”. That is a good mind set for our day. C.S. Lewis spoke to this mind set. He was asked how Christians should face the shadow of the atomic age after WWII. In 1948 he wrote “In one way we think too much about the atomic bomb. How are we to live in an atomic age? I am tempted to reply-as you would have lived in the 16th century when the plague visited London almost every year…or as you live in an age of cancer…in other words do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me Sir or Madam, you and all you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented…we live with the high probability that a percentage of us are going to die in unpleasant ways. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering with long faces because scientists have added one more chance of painful death to a world that already bristled with such chances. The first action was to pull ourselves together. If the bomb comes it will find us doing sensible things like praying, working, teaching, reading, playing, or chatting with our friends, not huddled together like frightened sheep thinking about bombs! They may break our bodies, (a virus can do that too) but they need not dominate our minds”. We need to have a spirit of courage not cowardice; faith not fear; prayer not panic; trust not terror. That kind of mind set will bring calm to a crisis.

A second kind of approach the Church needs, in addition to a Mind set, is one of Ministry. The prevalent watch word for the hour is “SOCIAL DISTANCING”. We are being told-cancel sports; cancel concerts; cancel school; cancel work; Avoid contact at all costs. Isolate yourselves. Flee to your castle. Pull up the drawbridge; batten down all the hatches! All the voices are encouraging the Church to close it doors for the time being! What are we to do? Christian history speaks to this issue. We need to have ears to hear! Between 250-280 A.D. a terrible plague devastated the Roman Empire. At the height of the plague, named the Cyprian plague, because he chronicled it, 5,000 people died daily in the City of Rome. Decius, the Emperor, blamed the Christians for the plague. That claim was undermined by the facts that Christians died of the plague too just like everybody else. But unlike everybody else, the Christians did not run from the plague, they stayed and cared for the victims, including their pagan neighbors. Christians had also done that a century earlier in the Antoinine plagues as well. Historian Rodney Stark, in his book The Rise of Christianity, says “Christians stayed in afflicted cities, when pagan leaders and physicians fled. They cared for the victims and buried the dead”. Candida Moss, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity adds, “an epidemic that seemed like the end of the world actually promoted the spread of Christianity”. By their loving action they showed the pagan world that Christianity is worth dying for. Dionisius, a first hand witness from that era, wrote “Heedless of danger they took charge of the sick, attending to every need and ministering to them in the Name of Christ, and even departed life with them, serenely happy in spite of being infected with the disease, and accepting their pains”. Ancient Church historian Eusebius wrote: “During the plague, all day long some of the Christians tended to the dying and to their burial. Countless numbers had no one to care for them. Christians ministered to them, even bringing bread to those withered from famine. The deeds of these Christians were on everyone’s lips, and they glorified the God of the Christians”. Julian the Apostate, the last pagan Emperor recognized the ministry of Christians to the victims of the plague. He wrote to one of the pagan priests that served under his supervision-“When it came about that the poor were neglected and overlooked by our priests, the followers of the impious Galilean devoted themselves to this kind of philanthropy. They supported not only their own poor and sick, but ours as well. All people see that we have neglected our people. It is their benevolence to strangers, their care for the graves of the dead, that have done the most to increase their atheism”, (a pagan term for the Christian faith).

These are difficult days. We must not be reckless in our approach. But we must not run from the situation either. We must have a mind set of faith not fear! Then the world will see that we have a God who can be trusted. A Savior who is worth believing in. We have a faith that sustains us even in the face of illness, epidemic, and death. We must find careful ways to bridge the “social distancing” with “loving ministry” to the frightened, sick, and dying, in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ. When others run away in fear, we can run to the need in faith!

 Posted by at 6:25 pm

“MYSELF: THE MEETING PLACE FOR EVENTS I NEVER STARTED…AND CANNOT STOP?”

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Mar 082020
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “MYSELF: THE MEETING PLACE FOR EVENTS I NEVER STARTED…AND CANNOT STOP?”  By:  Ron Woodrum

  President Abraham Lincoln had a disarming and engaging ability to laugh at himself, especially his own physical appearance. When Senator Stephan A. Douglas once called him a “two-faced man”, Lincoln responded, “I leave it to my audience. If I had another face, do you think I would wear this one?” Another time he told a group of editors about meeting a woman riding on horseback in the wood. She “looked at me intently, and said, ‘I do believe you are the ugliest man I ever saw’. Said I, ‘Madam, you are probably right, but I can’t help it’. ‘No’, she said, ‘you can’t help it, but you could stay at home!’” Potentially we Christians can be two-faced. We can at times show our spiritual image in Christ, or Carnal image in the flesh! More often than not, we let our ugly natural, fleshly, and carnal identity have full expression. The answer is not to stay at home and hide our ugliness. Instead it is a better option to yield ourselves to God, in Jesus Christ, and let His Holy Spirit energize our transformation and supernaturally show our best side. C.S. Lewis said it best, he wrote, “The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become’…the alternative is a real disaster. The more I resist Him and try to live in my own strength, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. In fact, what I so proudly call ‘myself’ becomes merely the meeting place for trains of events which I never started and cannot stop!” That is the greatest danger we as Christians face! Letting our lives become merely “the meeting place for trains of events we never started and cannot stop!”. E.E. Cummings, in his unique poetic way expressed the struggle that everyone has in preventing the world from defining us. He wrote,

“To be nobody but yourself

in a world which is doing

its best night and day

to make you everybody else-

means to fight the hardest battle

which any human being can fight-

and never stop fighting.”

The truth is the hardest battle the Christian will fight, and must never stop fighting is to resist letting the world squeeze us into its mold. Another danger is to let our carnal self have full reign and rob us of experiencing the transforming work of the indwelling Spirit of Christ’s power to make us the Spiritual person God designed us to be in the first place. That is what C.S. Lewis was referring to. We are actually in danger of living all the days of our Christian life and missing out on that very thing! John Henry Newman said, “Fear not that your life shall come to an end, but fear rather it shall never have a beginning”. Oliver Wendall Holmes said, “the ultimate tragedy is that many people go to their graves with their music still in them”. That should be our fear…that our Spiritual life shall never have a beginning…that we die with the Spirit-filled melody intended for us still be unexpressed. Jesus intends for us to get out of our boats, follow Him, and by His power find ourselves like Peter-“walking on water”…doing what is physically impossible because He bids us come! He said that those who follow Him will do even greater things, by the power of the Spirit. That is how we will show the world the reality of following Christ…of demonstrating His power and nature. Karl Barth, one of the greatest theologians and Christian thinkers of all time, said, “the Word became flesh-and then through theologians it became words again”. To him the greatest challenge of the Christian community was to incarnate Him in flesh again. How do we do that? By yielding to the control of the Holy Spirit in our lives moment by moment. Paul Brandt explained it this way, “He is asking us to be the chief bearers of His likeness in the world. As spirit He remains invisible on this planet. He relies upon us to give flesh to that spirit, to bear the very image of God”.

When the natural Christian teams up with the Supernatural Spirit of God something Theanthropic happens! That is, it becomes a Divine-human synergy. The product always exceeds anything we can anticipate or imagine. Even in the physical realm we can be fascinated by emerging results from some combinations. In his book on Synergy Physicist Buckmaster Fuller goes to geometric gymnastics to prove that two triangles, when combined geometrically, the result is unusual. He writes, “By conventional arithmetic, one triangle plus one triangle equals two triangles. But in association as left helix and right helix, they form a six-edged tetra-hedron of four triangular faces…when seen as negative and positive helixes they complement each other…and our two triangles now add up as one plus one equals four!”. He lost me somewhere in the explanation. But he does demonstrate that there are times when additions are made, and things are combined, that the product far exceeds the normally understood realm. He then illustrates it in another way easier to understand. He says synergy-the combining of elements-explain how metals increase strength. All alloys are synergetic. Chrome-nickel-steel combined to make extra-ordinary strength. This alloy combination produced a high cohesive strength and structural ability to withstand the temperatures necessary for the jet engine. Engineers invented jet expulsion from watching squids. By developing explosions to cause similar expulsion to jet a plane into the air required temperatures that would destroy normal metals like steel. But by combining Chrome-nickel-steel together it became possible to do the impossible! That is a poor illustration from the natural realm of what can be true in the supernatural realm. When God combines our human nature with His divine nature, the combination exceeds one plus one. It is a physical-Spiritual alloy that jettisons us beyond the natural and helps us excel to be transformed into the image of Christ! That helps us become more than ourselves-more than just a meeting place of trains of events we never began nor neither can we stop. We can, by that alloy “give flesh to that Spirit, and bear the image of God, in the person of His Son”, and our Savior Jesus Christ, to a world that desperately needs to see Him real in us! That makes us “Holy, Wholly, Holy!” That is what today’s message is about. Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, expressed the adventure of this Spirit-filled life in this way, “The word ‘Christian’ means different things to different people. To one person it means a stiff, upright, inflexible way of life, color-less and unbending. To another it means a risky, surprise-filled venture, lived tiptoe at the edge of expectation…if we get our information from the Biblical material, there is no doubt that the Christian life is a dancing, leaping, daring life.” (Traveling Light)

 Posted by at 6:16 pm

“Be Pedestaled in Triumph”-Robert Browning.

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Mar 012020
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Be Pedestaled in Triumph”-Robert Browning.    By:  Ron Woodrum

  Paschal, in his masterpiece Penses, tried to explain why the world in his day, like ours, seems lost in their insatiable pursuit of pleasure at any cost. He said, “What else does this craving, and this helplessness proclaim but that there was once in man true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, thou none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words (can only be filled) by God Himself”. In other words, Pascal was saying that man, created in the image of God, can only be fulfilled when, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism states, “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever!”. Part of the wages of sin is to “fall short of the glory of God” but have this insatiable desire to know, love and experience Him. If we do not come back to Him, and experience Him fully, through the salvation provided in His Son Jesus Christ, we will spend our lives seeking Him in an infinite insatiable experience, only to be left empty, disappointed, disillusioned, frustrated. Even living lives of reckless abandon to all kinds of so-called pleasures and vices are affirmations that we are hungering for a God we were made to know, love and experience to His satisfying fullness. That is why Augustine said, “We are restless until we find our rest in you oh God!”. C.S. Lewis, in his book The Abolition of Man, made this very amazing point when he said, “Pleasures are shafts of glory as it strikes our sensibility…but aren’t there bad, unlawful pleasures? (you ask). Certainly, there are. But in calling them ‘bad pleasures’ I take it we are using a kind of shorthand. We mean ‘pleasures snatched by unlawful acts’. It is the stealing of the apples that is bad, not the sweetness of the apples. The sweetness is still a beam from glory.” Lewis was saying enjoying pleasure and ecstasy, even in immoral ways, are in themselves an act of seeking to enjoy and experience God. We may experience the pleasure through immoral and illicit means, but it is not the sweetness that is bad, but the means. It still reflects the original desire of God to give us His “every good and perfect gift”. But the reason we fail to retain the enjoyment of these illicit experiences is because we were never intended to enjoy them outside of Him. They come, through proper means, from His Hand, with His blessing, and cause us then to react to the pleasure by enjoying Him. That is what Lewis went on to say-“The sweetness is still a beam from glory…I have tried since …to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration. I don’t mean simply by giving thanks, but I meant something different…Gratitude exclaims very properly, ‘How god of God to give me this’. Adoration says, ‘what must be the quality of that Being (God) whose far-off and momentary blessings to me are like this! One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun…’ “

Therefore, the only real answer to overcoming addictions and destructive lifestyles is to see them for what they are. They are insatiable pursuits of trying to enjoy the pleasures God intends for us to find only in Him, and His Son Jesus. To try to experience those sweet pleasures from His hand, in illicit ways, will eventually prove to be “pleasure in sin for a season”-and lead to unhappiness. You and I cannot fill the infinite abyss with finite pleasures, even if they come from the hand of God, if they are experienced apart from putting Him first in our lives. That is why Emerson said, “Most men, (and women) lead lives of quiet desperation!” So, it is the enemy’s goal to lead us to seek to fulfill our God-given drives and desires independent of God. That is where most men and women in the world today are living. We have believed the lie-“you only go around once so you have to grab all the gusto you can”. But when we realize that we can overcome these destructive lifestyles, with the strength of God, we are freed to experience Him, and in doing so can experience pleasures just as sweet, but in a way that is a gift from Him, and is therefore fulfilling and satisfying. That is why Jesus said, in John 10:10 “I am come that you might have life…and have it more abundantly”. That is why Augustine said, “God permits temptation to sin, to transform it into greater good.” C.S. Lewis also hit the nail on the head, when he said, “Bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of evil impulse until we try to fight it!” It is a lie of the devil that God says no to us, because He wants to deprive us of pleasure and joy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Truth is pleasure and joy cannot be found, even in God’s gifts if they are sought to be enjoyed apart from Him. The Gifts are inseparably linked to the Giver! You can experience them without Him. He created us for them. But you can’t enjoy them without Him. That is the message of the Book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon tried and did everything. No limits! No restraints! His conclusion? Live your life for pleasure, apart from putting God first, and you will be “chasing the wind” and concluding “vanity of vanities all is vanity!”.

Robert Browning has written a great poem about Temptation- He wrote:

Why comes temptation, but for man to meet

And master and make, crouch beneath his feet,

And so be pedestaled in triumph.

 

  God wants us to resist the temptation to seek out all the pleasures this world offers if we are not walking intimately with Him. He wants us to come back to Him. Embrace Him. Love Him. We will find that at His right hand are “pleasures evermore” (Psalm 16:11). He says, “Take delight in Me and I will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). That is why the Jesus people, of the seventies, found Jesus even more satisfying than a life of illicit sex and drugs. He proved to be the one who satisfied most, when all those things, pursued without Jesus, were only destructive dead-end streets! That why they talked about getting the genuine high with Jesus. He never lets you down. A genuine and intimate relationship with God, through salvation in His son Jesus is the only answer to the destructive call and pull of this world. This is illustrated for us in Homer’s Odyssey. Odysseus was trying to get home to his family and was having a hard time doing it. Along the way he encountered the enchanting and dangerous Circe who, it was said, turned men into pigs. When Odysseus successfully avoided her attractions, she confided in him that a sterner test lay ahead-the Sirenes, lusty, luscious maidens whose island lay along the straits and whose songs lured travelers away from hearth and home. Circe advised Odysseus to have his men plug their ears with wax, and tie himself to the mast. Odysseus did have his men do just that! But he had an additional idea-his friend Orpheus, who was also an accomplished musician, was asked to sit on the deck and make a sweet melody that would turn Odysseus’ ears and heart away from the lure of the Sirens, as they passed by. In that way he stayed the course and passed the test. The best way to avoid being disappointed by the lure of the lesser is to fill our hearts with the lure of the greater-God, in His Son Jesus Christ. He will not only give us the pleasures we sought outside of Him, he will give us greater pleasures, that will satisfy our hearts. That is why Scripture implores us to “taste and see that the Lord is Good!” (Ps. 34:8).

 Posted by at 1:12 pm

“Seeing Him with the Eye of Flesh or the Eye of Faith”

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Feb 232020
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Seeing Him with the Eye of Flesh or the Eye of Faith”  By:  Ron Woodrum

        When we hear the name Jesus, we automatically have an image appear in our minds. It is an image that has been introduced to us somewhere, in our Sunday School literature, in pictures, illustrations etc. For most of my generation our image comes from a popular painting by Warner Elias Sallman. Sallman and his parents were first generation immigrants from Finland/Sweden. They settled in Chicago in the early 1900’s He sang in the choir at his Church in Chicago. There he met his wife Ruth. He was an artist who apprenticed with some of the best artists during the day, and attended the Chicago Art Institute by night. In 1924 a major denomination commissioned him to make a charcoal sketching of the head of Jesus. He used the only historical document that he could find that described the physical appearance of Jesus. It read: “He is a man of medium size with a venerable aspect, his beholders both fear and love Him. His hair is the color of ripe hazel-nut, straight down to the ears, but below the ears wavy and curled, with a bluish and bright reflection, flowing over His shoulders. It is parted in two at the top of the head, after the pattern of the Nazarenes. His brow is smooth and cheerful, with a face without a wrinkle or spot, with a reddish complexion. His nose and mouth are faultless. His beard is abundant, the color of His hair, not long, but divided at the chin”. After doing several sketches he chose to do an oil painting. His oil painting was astounding! The Church of God formed Warner Press, and asked him to replicate the painting, obtaining the copyright to the painting. They began to distribute copies of the painting. For the next 30 years Sallman’s HEAD OF CHRIST was distributed throughout the world, churches, clubs and service organizations. The USO printed small copies which were given to every soldier, sailor, and airman that enlisted. It became the most popular picture of Jesus known. Sallman had over 100 drawings, illustrations, and paintings that became property of Warner Press. They are all displayed in a gallery in Anderson, Indiana. Though this image is forever burned in our minds, and held dear to our hearts, it must be said that it was not likely an accurate reproduction or representation of what our Lord Jesus Christ really looked like!

The document that Sallman used was a letter purported to be written to the Roman Senate, and to Caesar Tiberius, by a Roman official named Publius Lentulus. The author claimed to be a contemporary of Jesus, serving either before or after Pontius Pilate. The Lentulus family was very prominent in Rome. Even one member became Governor of Syria around 60 years before Christ. But this particular document has no history that can be traced to the first century. It was apparently written in Greek and translated into Latin. The oldest copy dates back to AD 1421-as an ancient document sent to Rome from Constantinople around that time. Copies of it were all over Europe shortly after that. Frederick Munter, a historian scholar, (1761-1830), claimed that he could trace the letter back to the time of Emperor Diocletian, (244-311 AD), but he had no documentation to verify that claim. Most historians consider it a fraudulent document. Eventually the consensus of the Church agreed with St. Augustine of Hippo, who wrote in his day: “What His appearance was, we know not!” It seems strange that we have images and busts of Julius Caesar, Augustus, and even the evil madman Nero, on coins, and statuary, but no reproductions of Jesus. It is probably just as well because any genuine reproductions of our Lord Jesus Christ would have likely been turned into relics and idols. We must be content with the statement of the Apostle Peter who said, “whom having not seen, ye love” (I Peter 1:8). Until then we would do well to heed the words of William Blake:

“The vision of Christ that thou dost see

Is my vision’s worst enemy

Thine has a great hook nose like thine,

Mine has a snub nose like to mine 

Both read the Bible day and night

But thou readest black and I readest white!”

  

  Peter saw Him with the eye of flesh. John saw Him with the eye of flesh. Matthew saw Him with the eye of flesh. Mark saw Him with the eye of flesh. We have only seen Him with the eye of Faith. The eye of faith has been formed by the Words of the authors of Scripture. They did not give us a vivid description of how tall he was, what His hair color was, but Mark gives us a vivid running account of the Father’s Righteous Servant who serves, sacrifices, and saves all who encounter Him, and open their lives to Him. He is the “same yesterday, today, and forever” and those of us who encounter Him today find Him to be everything we need Him to be for us. We are the more blessed indeed. Jesus told Thomas, “you have seen and believed, but blessed are those who have never seen, but will believe!” (John 20:29). That is the blessing of the eye of faith!

 Posted by at 2:57 am

“The Christian Life-Hard or Easy? Egg Hatched or Bad? Happy Hypocrite? Shaping Saint?

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Feb 162020
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The Christian Life-Hard or Easy? Egg Hatched or Bad? Happy Hypocrite? Shaping Saint?   By:  Ron Woordrum

       I love the passage in Mere Christianity where C.S. Lewis talks about whether the Christian life is hard or easy. “It’s both”, he says, “hard as death in the beginning, and then as his life begins to work within us and transform us, it becomes relatively easy, because He does the work of transforming us. We are to hand ourselves over to Christ, to be ploughed and resown. We are to have the bad tooth out, and a new tooth given us. It is like death. But then, He lives with us and helps us to do impossible things. In that way it is easy! As we experience moments of victory, a new sort of life is spreading throughout your system” and that is the way sanctification works. “At first it is the idea of ‘putting on Christ’…dressing up as the Son of God…to become a real son. This is not one of the many jobs a Christian has to do, or a special exercise for the top of the class. It is the whole of Christianity. Christianity offers nothing else at all! The Christian way is hard and easy. Christ says, ‘give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you! I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it! No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there. I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it…but to have it out! Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires that you think are innocent as well as the ones wicked-the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours’ ““The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing is to hand over your whole self-all your wishes and precautions-to Christ. But it is far easier than what all we are trying to do instead. For we are trying to remain ourselves…and all the while trying to be and do good…which we on our own can never accomplish. When Jesus said, ‘be perfect’, He meant exactly that! He meant we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder-in fact impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: but it would be a jolly sight harder for the egg to learn to fly!-while remaining an egg! We are like eggs at present. You cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad! This is the whole of Christianity. There is nothing else. It is easy to get muddled about that! It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different aspects- education, building, missions, and holding worship services. The Church exists for nothing else than to draw men to Christ, to make them little-Christ’s. If they are not doing that, all the Cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose!”

Then Lewis alludes to the Happy Hypocrite, (by inference). He says, “The story is told of someone who had to wear a mask, a mask which made him look much nicer than he really was. He had to wear it for years. And when he took it off he found that his own face had grown to fit it. He really was beautiful. What had become a disguise had become a reality!” Frederick Buechner identifies that tale, in his book Telling the Truth, as a story written by Max Beerbohn titled The Happy Hypocrite. Mr. Buechner summarizes the story: “In the Happy Hypocrite Beerbohn tells about a regency rake name Lord George Hell, debauched and profligate, who falls in love with a saintly girl, and in order to win her love, covers his features with the mask of a saint. This girl is deceived and becomes his bride. They live happily ever after until a wicked lady from Lord Hell’s past turns up to expose the scoundrel she knows him to be and challenges him to take off his mask! So sadly, having no choice, he takes it off, and lo and behold beneath the saint’s mask is the face of a saint he has become by wearing it in love.”

The moral of the story, and Mr. Lewis’ reason for making reference to it is this: we are not yet what we pretend to be (Christ like), but the more we desire it, and yield to Him, the more we will become like Him. Virtue by definition is the habit of a right desire. Habitually yielding to Him will eventually form Him in us, by the power of mind-renewing. You may be wondering what is the difference in acting like Christ when we are not yet like him and hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is acting in one way we never intend to become. The man in the Happy Hypocrite was a corrupt man who pretended to be a saint and became a good man. Thus the word “Happy” in the title. The book is worth hunting down and reading. For us what can become a hopeful disguise can and will become a reality…if we let him hatch us and shape us into that saint! It’s hard. Impossible really! But it’s easy!

 Posted by at 2:53 am

“A Word from God at Closing Time?”

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Feb 092020
 

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

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

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

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

 Posted by at 2:12 pm

“The priority of Pastor’s ministry”.

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Feb 022020
 

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

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

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

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

 Posted by at 2:21 pm

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

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Jan 262020
 

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

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

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

 Posted by at 2:30 pm

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

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Jan 192020
 

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

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

Doctor My Eyes have seen the years

And the slow parade of fears without crying

Now I want to understand

I have done all that I could

To see the Evil and the Good without hiding

You must help me if you can

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

(The song ends-)

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

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

  

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

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

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

 Posted by at 11:46 pm

“The Christian’s Splendid Torch”

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Jan 122020
 

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

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

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

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

 Posted by at 12:29 pm