“Can Christians be Indubitably real ever again?”

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Nov 042018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Can Christians be Indubitably real ever again?”

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     The Wesleyan revival of the eighteenth century was one of the great outpourings of the Spirit, and the secret to retaining the fruits of revival was the class meetings that were held by the Wesley’s.  They emphasized Bible reading, prayer, holiness and dedication to be practiced by the converts.  The classes provided fellowship and accountability.  After many years Wesley decided to write a guide-a manual for the class in an effort to carry on with the movement.  But the power and vitality of the movement seemed to diminish from that point on.  This troubled Wesley so much, he wrote: “It was a common saying among Christians that ‘the soul and the body make the man’ but ‘the spirit and discipline make the Christian’: implying that none could be a real Christian without the help of Christian discipline.  But if this be so, is it any wonder that we now find so few Christians, for where is the Christian Discipline?” (Causes of the Inefficacy of Christianity-a sermon by John Wesley).  Wesley put his finger on an ongoing problem confronting Christians of all eras-how do you sustain real Christian living on an everyday level? Thomas A Kempis, author of the Imitation of Christ, warned “Know well that the enemy labors to hinder the desire, (of the Church), for holiness and make you fail to attain all good spiritual exercise.” Thomas Aquinas, seeing this loss of power, did his best to communicate it.  On one occasion he was confronted by Pope Innocent II, who showed him all the property of the Church, all her magnificent buildings, and large sums of money.  Innocent said, “You see the Church is no longer in the age which she has to say, ‘silver and gold have I none’-she can no longer say that!”  Aquinas acknowledged that is true, then said, “Neither can she say, In the name of Jesus Christ-rise up and walk!”  For entirely different reasons, the Church today finds herself with the same inability to impact our world for Christ.  We profess to know Christ.  We have committed to be His followers.  But there is a veritable “Grand Canyon” of difference between Who He is, and who we are!  It seems the Church has “fallen and we cannot get up!”  Henry David Thoreau used to say, “men, (Christians), lie on their backs talking about the fall of man, but never make an effort to get up!”  It sure seems like it!  Leo Tolstoy, in his book The Kingdom of God is Within You, “All men, (Christians included), of the modern world exist in a continual and flagrant antagonism between their consciences and their way of life”.  How have we drifted so far from the real Christianity we witness in the New Testament?  Richard Halverson, Presbyterian pastor, and past Chaplain of U.S. Congress, wrote years ago, “In the beginning the Church was a Fellowship of men and women centering on the Living Christ; The Church moved to Greece and became a Philosophy; The Church moved to Rome and became an Institution; The Church moved to Europe a Culture; The Church moved to America and became an Enterprise!”  That history is very revealing about how we got to where we are at today.  Donald Miller says “the inner reserves of Christianity have been largely depleted!”  Richard Foster says “most conservatives by the early seventies generally accepted that being a Christian had nothing essentially to do with actually following Jesus.  Most Christians are NOT like Him.  The main popular bumper sticker became ‘Christians are not perfect, just forgiven’.  The only absolute requirement for being a Christian is to believe proper things about Jesus”. (Discipleship: For Super Christians Only). That explains the modern impotent Church.  The salt has lost its savor!

 

William Iverson identified that very thing.  He wrote “one quarter of the population of the United States professes an evangelical conversion experience.  Jesus said that those who claim that are to be the salt of the earth.  He deduces-a pound of meat would surely be affected by a quarter pound of salt-wouldn’t you think?  Where is the effect of which Jesus spoke?” (William Iverson-Christianity Today– 1980 p.33).  Henry Churchill King, long time President of Oberlin College, and well-known theologian raises a very pertinent question for our generation-“What happened to Christians being indubitably real?”  (Indubitably is a word hardly used anymore that means “something so real it cannot be doubted”).  What has happened to “that kind” of Christianity?  When Christianity, in the past, slipped away from being the real deal kind of Christianity there usually came a revival to bring them back to their real identity.  Revival was the means of restoring a life of spirit, genuineness, and power to the fallen Church.  But how about today?  Richard Foster, in his book The Spirit of Disciplines, says “that doesn’t work any longer.  The mainstay-revival is no longer what it used to be.  Revival in the classic sense is the overwhelming infusion of spiritual life coming into the Church, and into the whole community.  But that kind of revival has been replaced with meetings, still called by the old name.  But people who make decisions remain substantially unchanged from what they were before.  Revivals are no longer an influx of Word and Spirit.  Now one can have an ‘unsuccessful revival’ and still have revival-which if you think about it that makes as much sense of having a raising from the dead without having a raising at all!”  Paul Scherer says the number one problem of the Church today is that it has become “too trivial to be true…empty and powerless…and this is accepted as the norm these days!”

 

     What do we do?  We need to take the attitude of Darrell Royal.  He was a very successful coach of the University of Texas for many years.  When he first started his career at Texas he got a call from the President of the Alumni, after the first game.  The president said to the coach-“Darrell when can I come over to give you some constructive criticism?”  Coach Royal replied, “Never!”  The President of the Alumni insisted-“We have a group that meets to do just that after every game!”  Coach said, “Not anymore!  I work best when people affirm me, and tell me what I am doing right, not what I am doing wrong!  I need supporters to cheer me on!”  His supporters became just that and for years the University of Texas had a very successful football program.  We need that kind of support for the Church.  Not that we are to stick our head in the sand concerning diagnosing where we are at.  But we need to be cheered on to return to the Church that walks with the Lord…in the Light of His word…filled and empowered by His Spirit again.  John Mackay, past president of Princeton University, and Scottish missionary for many years, used to speak to Churches all across America.  He always started his messages with “Let the Church Be the Church!”  Theologian Helmut Thielicke always said, “The Church cannot permit its authority to be defined by people who have no idea of its mission!”  We need to stop trying to Follow in His Steps-in the power of the flesh.  That is why we are failing.  We do not need an Imitation of Christ…but an Incarnation of Christ.  Paul was right. “Christ In You-The Hope of Glory”.  That is our only hope! That is possible only by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.  We must be yielded to Him again.  We need to pray the poem of Amy Carmichael-Oh Flame of God.

 

From the prayer that asks that I may be

Sheltered from the winds that beat on thee

From fearing, when I should aspire

From faltering when I should climb higher

From silken self, O Captain free

Thy soldier who would follow thee

 

From subtle things of softening

From easy choices-weakening’s

(not thus are spirits fortified)

Not went that way the Crucified

From all that dims Thy Calvary

Oh Lamb of God deliver me

 

Give me a LOVE that leads the way

A FAITH that nothing can dismay

A HOPE no disappointment can tire

A PASSION that will burn like fire

Let me not sink like a clod

MAKE ME THY FUEL OH FLAME OF GOD!

 

     The entire population of a small town gathered to watch the Baptist Church burn to the ground.  In the crowd, with their parents, watching the disaster were two young children.  The little girl said to her brother, “I’ve never seen so many people at Church”.  There was silence for a minute.  Then the brother replied, “The Church has never been on fire before!”  THAT JUST MAY BE THE ANSWER TO OUR PROBLEM!  Indubitably real Christians must catch fire again to be Indubitable!

 

 Posted by at 1:13 pm

“We have not seen the last of the best!”

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Oct 282018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “We have not seen the last of the best!”

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

Revivals have been a big part of my life for over six decades.  I was saved in September of 1968.  My parents were saved the next fall, November 1969, during a revival with Gerald Thompson as the Evangelist at the Salem Baptist Church of Decatur.  Later, after God had called me into the ministry, my very first ministry was being a bus Pastor.  But that was soon followed in 1969 with opportunities to preach youth revivals in Central Illinois.  I preached 25 youth revivals during the years of 1969-1971 averaging nearly 10 per year.  The focus of most of those revivals was for Christian youth to surrender their lives to Jesus, and witness and bring friends to the youth meetings.  Many young people came to faith in those days as the sixties welcomed the seventies! I began pastoring my first Church in May of 1971 at the age of 17.  Every Church that I have pastored over the years has had one to two revivals per year.  Over nearly 50 years of ministry I have participated in over 250 revivals, counting the ones I hosted as a Pastor of a Baptist Church, and the one I personally preached as an Evangelist.  In the eighties I averaged preaching about 8-10 revivals per year-all over Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and South Carolina, and Tennessee.  I have had the joy of witnessing revivals transform Churches collectively, and Christians individually.  I can honestly say my life was touched by every one of them.  As a young person I made it a habit to attend revivals at sister Baptist Churches, and also several other denominations-Methodist, Church of God, Assembly of God, Nazarene, Pentecostal, Bible Churches, etc.  Even though there are many that feel that revivals are a thing of the past that no longer impacts American Culture today…I strongly disagree.  Even though most revivals today reach fewer non-Christians than they used to; they still impact the people of God.  When the Church is revived…the community that surrounds it is impacted for Christ.

I want to share a few famous Christian quotes that help us understand the role that revival plays in the life of a local Church, and in the lives of the individual Christians who are identified with the Church.  J.I. Packer defines a revival as “a visitation of God which brings to life Christians who have fallen asleep spiritually, and restores a deep sense of God’s near presence and holiness.  All this ushers in a vivid sense of sin and profound exercise of heart in repentance, praise, and with an evangelistic overflow”.  Stephan Olford writes, “Revival is that strange, sovereign work of God in which He visits the people-restoring, reanimating, and releasing them into the fullness of His blessing.  Such a divine intervention will issue in evangelism, though, in the first instance, it is a work of God in the Church and among individual believers”.  Charles Finney, the revivalist of the early nineteenth century, defined revival concisely as “a new beginning of obedience”.  Simply put a new closeness to God; a new passion for Christ; A new love for God; A new holiness in life; A new filling and refreshing of the Holy Spirit.  One of my favorite descriptions of revival is from John Wesley.  He wrote, “We need to storm the throne of Grace and persevere therein, and mercy will come down.  I continue to dream and to pray about revival…in our day, that moves forth in mission and creates authentic community, in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the Spirit, to fulfill God’s intentions!”  Probably the best quote I have been influenced by on revivals is by Andrew Bonar.  He wrote, “Revivals begin with God’s own people, The Holy Spirit touches their hearts anew, and gives them a new fervor, and compassion, and zeal, new light and life, and after He has come to the Church, He next goes to the Valley of Dry Bones…Oh what responsibility this lays upon the Church of God.  If you grieve Him away or hinder His visit-the poor perishing world suffers sorely!”  The responsibility for the condition of America and the World may just be related to the fact that we have neglected the continual need of revival in the life of the Church to keep God’s people passionate and productive in our ministries to that very world!

 

 

One of the complaints I often heard about revivals was that the same people came forward revival after revival to re-dedicate their lives anew and afresh to the Lord Jesus Christ!  My response has always been– “WHAT IN THE WORLD IS WRONG WITH THAT!  PERHAPS THAT IS WHAT HAD KEPT THE CHURCH ON THE CUTTING EDGE”.  Like the Hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing says, “Prone to Wander, Lord I feel it.  Prone to leave the God I love!”  If rededication, at a minimum of once per year, kept us vitally functioning as Christians individually, and Churches collectively…then Praise The Lord.  We could use a few rededications right now!  I came across an interesting story the other day.  It was the story of a man of God that felt the call to be a missionary to Formosa.  Formosa was the Portuguese name for Taiwan.  The Chinese country in the Far East, recently given back to mainland China.  Thomas Barclay answered the call to go as a missionary to Formosa, and ministered there for over 60 years.  He translated the entire Bible into their language.  Behind that life of service lay a covenant with God that he wrote when he was sixteen, and which he renewed every year for the rest of his life!  (I would call that a re-dedication).  It read, in part, “This day do I, with the utmost solemnity, surrender myself to Thee.  I renounce all former lords that have had dominion over me, and I consecrate to Thee all that I have:  the faculties of my mind, the members of my body, my worldly possessions, my time, and my influence over others; to be all used entirely for Thy glory, and resolutely employed in obedience to Thy commands, as long as Thou continuest me in this life; with ardent desire and humble resolution to continue Thine through all the ages of eternity; ever holding myself in an attentive position to observe, with zeal and joy, to the immediate execution of it.  To Thy direction also I resign myself, and all that I am and have, to be disposed of by Thee in such a manner as Thou in Thine infinite wisdom shall judge most subservient to the purposes of Thy glory.  To Thee I leave the management of all events, and say without reserve, ‘Not my will, but Thine, be done!’ “Renewing that annually brought about 60 plus years of faithful service.  I would, without hesitation, define that as an on-going REVIVAL!

 

When we usually talk about revivals we refer to Great Awakenings of the Past.  It has been so long that they are now viewed as “Ancient History!”  No one expects to see them ever come again.  Shame on us.  God has not changed!  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever!  One of my favorite quotes speaks to this very subject.  It is a quote from the great Scottish Preacher and Theologian-James Stewart.  He wrote, “It is God’s way to go beyond the best that He has done before; therefore a living faith will always have in it a certain element of surprise and tension and discovery; that what we have seen and learned of God up to the present is not to be the end of our seeing, nor the sum total of our learning; that whatever we have found in Christ is only a fraction of what we can still find; that the spiritual force which in the great days of the past vitalized the Church and shaped the course of history has not exhausted its energies or fallen into abeyance but is liable to burst out anew and take control.  God is promising wonders that He has never done before so that there will be more jubilant doxologies, more exultant hallelujahs.  For there is no limit to the love of God, no end to the redeeming Grace of Christ, and NO EXHAUSTION OF THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”. (“Expect Great Things From God”-The River of Life: Sermons of James S. Stewart-1972). My prayer is– “God Do It Again!”  “Do it as you have never done it before!”  “Lord send a revival-let it begin in me-in us-and spread like wild-fire”.  WE HAVE NOT SEEN THE LAST OF HIS BEST!  BELIEVE IT!

 

 Posted by at 1:11 pm

“Resigning or Re-Signing?”

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Oct 212018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Resigning or Re-Signing?”

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

      In 1937 Picasso was in Paris working on a major art project.  Back in his home country there was a civil war raging in Spain.  The Axis powers of Germany and Italy attacked the little town of Guernica, in the Basque country of Spain.  The horror was devastating.  Picasso, upon hearing it, traveled to witness the destruction.  The result was he then painted what is considered by many, his most famous and important work of art-Guernica-his anti-war mural.  The portrait painted a woman trying to escape from the bombs with her dead baby in her arms; A woman holding a torch as she flees, and the torch just illuminates the destruction.  Exploding chickens and animals from the market shows that war even affects innocent animals.   Most interpret the charging horse and bull, (normally a beloved symbol of Spain), being captured and used against them by Fascism!  Picasso remarked that “a work of art must make a man react; agitate the observer to action”.  That was his goal with this anti-war mural.  After returning to Paris, his masterpiece was displayed in a Museum there.  When the Nazis occupied France, Picasso was asked by a German soldier- “are you responsible for creating this?”  Picasso is reported to have responded, “No you are!”  When we look around us and see the battle that is raging in our culture, and the devil seems to be wreaking havoc on all that we hold precious…we wonder who is to blame.  T.S. Eliot, the famous British poet, who became a Christian later in his life, wrote “I do not believe, (I am a Christian myself), that culture could survive the complete disappearance of the Christian faith…if Christianity goes the whole of our culture goes!”  He was so prophetic in his words…that is exactly what has happened.  We want to blame the devil!  We want to blame the world and society.  We even question- “Where was God when all of this came over us?”  The truth be told we as the Church might just share the blame!  Edmund Burke wrote: “When bad men combine, the good must associate (in opposition) else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle”.  John Stuart Mill wrote: “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing”.  In other words…” for evil to triumph, all they need is for good to do nothing!”  That may describe the Church of Jesus Christ in the last few decades!  Even though we know who “wins in the end”. The current state of affairs related to the Church is that we are “losing a lot of battles!”  Truth be known we have waved the white flag-retreated to behind the four walls of the Church…and T.S. Eliot’s prophecy has become a reality.  We don’t like hearing that message.   It reminds me of Charlie Brown, in a cartoon strip I read several years ago.  The scenario was something like this…” You know what the trouble with you is, Charlie Brown?”  asks Lucy.  “No, I don’t want to know! Leave me alone!”  Charlie Brown walks away with his hands in his pockets.  Lucy calls after him: “the whole trouble with you is you won’t listen to what the whole trouble with you is!” Theologian Charles H. Heimsath said, “The chief trouble with the Church is that you and I are in it!”  Another imminent theologian Helmut Thielicke, when responding to the retreat and failure of the Church in Europe, (a forerunner to the failure of the Church in America), defended his hope in the Church this way…”If I were not convinced that Christ is risen, and that He lives…I probably could not have drawn any other conclusion except to leave the Church…Only the friends I have in it, those who bravely endure to persevere in a life of devotion and sacrifice, would make it hard for me to leave.  And what binds me to them most of all is precisely this, that the suffer because of the Church just as I do!”

 

 

 

It would be easy for us to give up in a spirit of defeat and blame it all on the trend of the last days, while crying out with the Apostle John- “even so come Lord Jesus!”  The great Scottish preacher John Robertson of Glasgow had been a Pastor for forty years.  But he lost his glow, he felt himself a failure, he decided to quit and resign.  He prayed, “Oh God, forty years ago you did commission me, but I have blundered and failed, and I want to resign this morning”.  He broke down in tears, and humbled himself before God.  He said this is the answer that God gave him.  “John Robertson, it is true that I commissioned you forty years ago. It is true that you have blundered and failed, BUT YOU ARE NOT TO RESIGN FROM YOUR COMMISSION.  YOU ARE TO RE-SIGN YOUR COMMISSION!”  That is the message that God has for us today as His Church.  RE-SIGN YOUR COMMISSION!  REVIVAL OFFERS US THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO JUST THAT!  That does not mean that we re-dedicate ourselves to God in revival, and just separate ourselves more from our decaying society.  Salt was used in the first century to slow decay…but it required contact with the decay!  Light can only overcome darkness by shining!  Revival allows us to regain our “saltiness’ and get back in contact with our world.  Light restores the glory of God so that we can be a beacon of brightness to the darkness around us!

 

F.W. Robertson contrasted Christianity with Judaism.  He said that the spirit of Judaism was to separate themselves from the evil around them.  Even isolate themselves!  They abstained from other foods, other days, other activities, etc.  But on the other hand, Christianity permeates evil with good, and aims at overcoming evil with good.  We must take seriously the words of Jesus that the “kingdom of heaven is like yeast, taken by the woman and put into three measures of flour until the whole lot had risen” (Luke 13:20-21).  Revived Christians, joined together as a renewed Church, can and always has historically, gone back out into their world and permeated it for the cause of Christ!  We are commissioned, as Esther, “for a time like this!”   The great Lutheran Pastor, Martin Niemoller of Germany was imprisoned by the Nazis.  One night he had a dream that he saw Hitler pleading his case before God, excusing himself because he had never heard the Gospel.  The Niemoller heard a voice directed toward him: “were you with him a whole hour without telling him of the gospel?”  He awoke and remembered that he had indeed been with Hitler for an hour.  He had not said a word about Jesus Christ.  That realization changed Niemoller.  From that moment on every prisoner, every guard, every person he came in contact with for the rest of his life heard the gospel from his re-signed lips!  I am “dreaming” that we have such a revival that causes a Church, in danger of “resigning” in these last days, to determination of “re-signing’ for a new commission to do all we can to impact our world while we yet have time!  It is not too late!  We might realize that we have been part of what is “wrong” with the Church.  But after revival we can definitely be what is “right” with the Church.  Anybody want to “re-sign?”

 

 Posted by at 1:07 pm

The Glory of the Son is Shared with those who take Him”.

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Oct 142018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE:  ”    The Glory of the Son is Shared with those who take Him”.

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     A wealthy art collector shared his passion with his only son.  Together they collected rare works of art.  They had everything in their collection from original Picasso’s to original Raphael’s!  They would often sit together and admire the great works of art together.  When the Viet Nam war broke out the son was drafted and sent into conflict.  He was killed in battle rescuing another soldier from his battalion, the father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.  His paintings soon lost all interest to him.  They were only a painful reminder of a life and love shared with his only son.  About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a know at the door.  A young man stood there with a large package in his hands.  He said, “Sir, you don’t know me but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life.  He saved many other lives that day too.  He was carrying me to safety when he was struck by a bullet, right in his heart, and he died instantly.  When you are in battle you have a lot of time waiting and watching.  During times of lull in the battle we often talked about our families back home.  He spoke so often about you.  And how much you loved art.”  The young man held out his package.  “I know that this isn’t much.  I’m not really a good artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this!”   The father opened the package.  It was a portrait of his son drawn by his fellow soldier!  The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears.  He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the portrait.  “Oh no sir, I could never repay your son for what he did for me!  My gift to you…because of your son!” 

The father loved the portrait.  He framed it and put it over the mantle, in the center of the room, displacing other famous paintings!  Every time visitors came to see his rare collections of art, the father spent most of his time directing their attention to the portrait of his beloved son!  A few months later the man died.  Since he had no immediate family left his art collection was to be auctioned off and proceeds be given to a charity.  His collection was so well-known art collectors came from far and wide to bid on each item.  The room was filled with famous originals of many great artists.  But up by the podium, on an easel, was the portrait of his beloved son.  The auctioneer pounded the gavel to get the attention of the crowd and said, “I am instructed to begin the bidding on this picture of the son.  Who will bid for this portrait?”  There was total silence.  No one bid at all.  “Who will bid-$100 dollars?”  Nothing but silence!  Then a voice spoke out-“we want to bid on the famous originals!”  “Yea-skip this one!”  “Nobody is interested in the portrait of the old man’s son!”  “Move on to the others!  That is why we came!”  The auctioneer persisted. “Who will start the bidding?  $100?  $75?  $50?”  Silence.  Then…”We want the Van Gogh’s…The Rembrandt’s…The Raphael’s”” Get on with the real bids!”  The auctioneer continued on…”The son…. who will take the son…start the bidding on the son!”  Finally, a voice came from the back of the room.  It was the voice of the longtime gardener of the Old man.  He had come to watch the auction, knowing he had no money to bid, but said “I’ll give $10 for the portrait of the son!”    “We have $10…who will go $20?”  The crowd was getting angry.  They didn’t want the son…they wanted the special works of art… those worthy of investment for collections.  The auctioneer pounded the gavel.  “Going once, going twice, sold to the man in the back for $10”.   A man on the second road groaned, “Finally, now let’s get on with the collection!”  The auctioneer laid down the gavel and said, “I’m sorry…the auction is over!  The owner instructed me to auction the portrait of his son first.  Whoever took the son inherits all the rest of the collection along with the son!  The man who took the son gets everything!”

2,000 years ago, God gave His only begotten Son to die on the cross because He loved you and I.  He gave His life to rescue us from eternal destruction of sin.  The instruction of His Will…the New Testament states “whoever takes the Son inherits everything!”  That is why Paul told the Corinthians “I am determined to know nothing among you but Jesus and Him crucified” (I Cor. 2:2).  We are to glory only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ! (Gal. 6:14).  One of the great Christian scholars of the twentieth century was Frank Gaebelein.  He was the major professor at the Stony Brook School on Long Island New York.  One of his chief students was the great scholar who battled the Kingdom of the Cults world wide-Walter Martin.  But the school was founded by Frank’s father Arno Gaebelein.  A.C. Gaebelein was known for his deep commitment and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ.  He lived and taught to glorify and magnify the Lord Jesus Christ.  He said, “We shall one day see His face, and His name shall be on our foreheads.  We are sons with Him, heirs of God, and fellow heirs with Him.  The acquired glory of our Lord is and will forever be the inherited glory of every sinner saved by grace, and we will share that glory with Him!”  That is why Paul said, “Whatever you do…do all to the glory of God!”  (I Cor. 10:31).  That is why J.H. Thornwell said, “If the church could be aroused to a deeper sense of the glory that awaits her, she would enter with a warmer spirit in the struggles that are daily before her!”  The great musician Johann Sebastian Bach headed his compositions with J.J.  meaning “Jesus Juva-Jesus help me!”  He ended them with S.D.G.  “Sola Dei Gratia-To God be the Glory alone!” Those of us who know the God of Glory- through the gift of Grace by the Glorious cross of His dear Son…should so magnify the Lord of Grace and Glory.

Dr. J.H. Jowett wrote in his book The Transfigured Church wrote:  “We leave our places of worship, and no deep and inexpressible wonder sits upon our faces.  We can sing these lilting melodies; and when we get out into the streets, our faces are one with the faces of those who have left the theaters and music halls.  Thee is nothing to suggest that we have been looking at anything stupendous and overwhelming.  Far back in my boyhood I remember an old saint telling me that after some services he liked to make his way home alone, by quiet by-paths, so that the hush of the Almighty might remain on his awed and prostrate soul.  That is the element we are losing!”  I might add “that is the element…not that we are losing…but have already lost!”  To show His glory…we have first to SEE it and SHARE it!

 

 Posted by at 10:41 pm

“Hollow Saints-Hollow Church”

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Oct 072018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Hollow Saints-Hollow Church”

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     Things are not always as they appear.  No one has hammered that message home with more impact than the poet Edwin Arlington Robinson, in his poem Richard Cory.  He tells the story of a model citizen who was the envy of his entire town.  Then he pulls the rug out from under us with his conclusion!  He wrote:

 

Whenever Richard Cory went downtown,

We people on the pavement looked at him:

He was a gentleman from sole to crown,

Clean favored, and imperially slim.

 

And he was always quietly arrayed,

And he was always human when he talked;

But still he fluttered pulses when he said,

‘Good-morning’ and he glittered when he walked.

 

And he was rich-yes, richer than a king-

And admirably schooled in every grace:

In fine, we thought that he was everything!

To make us wish that we were in his place.

 

So on we worked, and waited for the light,

And went without meat, and cursed the bread;

And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,

Went home and put a bullet through his head!

 

Model citizens are not always models.  Christians are not always the saints that we portray.  We often fool ourselves and fool others about our walk with God.  We live for years on decisions of yesteryear.  We are often like sinkholes that form when underground rivers dry up, and the weight above ground becomes too much for the vacancy below can bear up, and there is a major sinkhole collapse.  That is why the Christian life must be “so daily”.  We must fill each day with worship of God-that includes talking with Him, (prayer) and hearing from Him, (Bible Study).  We must fill each day with witness for God-where we share our faith-which keeps it real to ourselves; and relevant to our world, that is in truth hungering for Him; We must exercise our faith daily as we engage in spiritual warfare so that we can walk in victory instead of waving the white flag of surrender to the world, the flesh, and the devil.  A Christian that fails to keep his faith alive in those ways may convince himself that all is well, by going through the motions, but in reality is becoming hollow inside spiritually.  T. S. Eliot epitomized this condition in his poem The Hollow Men.   He wrote:

 

“We are hollow men

We are stuffed men

Leaning together

Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!

 

 

 

Our voices…quiet and meaningless

shape without form, shade without color

paralyzed force, gesture without motion. 

…a fading star…

such deliberate disguises

Behaving as the wind behaves

In the twilight kingdom

valley of dying stars

this is the hollow valley…

 

His context was England after WWI-the emptiness after the War to End All Wars.  But he also was talking about the loss of real character and underpinning faith that sustains us for the difficulties in life.  Life becomes empty and hollow activity without, as he says, “Thine is the Kingdom”…we need to keep alive in our “kingdom”. 

 

If you take a tour on the Hudson River you will pass Pollepel Island, a 6.5 acre island in the middle of the river, fifty miles north of New York City.  It is a famous island that was prominent in the Revolutionary War.  George Washington wanted to use it for a prison during the war, but that never materialized.  But it you look closely this island is home to an intriguing Robin-hood type Castle.  It is the Bannerman Castle.  In the late 1800’s Francis Bannerman VI, an immigrant from Northern Ireland, living in Brooklyn, started a military surplus business.  He purchased military equipment from the Civil War; from the Spanish-American War.  In November of 1900 he purchased Pollepel Island, and moved his military arsenal to the safety of the Island, after building this Castle to house it.  It became named “Bannerman’s Island Arsenal” and from there catalog orders provided guns, weapons, military clothing world-wide for many years.  In 1920 an explosion destroyed part of the castle.  A severe storm and Bannerman’s death left the Arsenal and island essentially vacant.  The state of New York bought the Castle and Island, and removed the military merchandise.  Tours of the Island were given in 1968.  But a fire in 1969 damaged the Arsenal even more.  The roofs and floors were destroyed.  The castle and island became off-limits to the public.  If you pass by it today…you see the hollow shell of a once mighty business empire and arsenal.  It is empty and hollow, and on the verge of collapse.  Yet commuters on the Metro-North Hudson Line and the Amtrak Empire Service can see clearly the title “Bannerman’s Island Arsenal” on the side of the Castle, it is nothing but an empty, hollow, ruin of what it once was!  The Church of Jesus Christ has been for years an Arsenal of Spiritual power in a world that is in desperate need of such power.  But due to many Christians stumbling in spiritual maintenance, and becoming shadows of the vibrant Christians that our Lord intends us to be, the Church is in danger of becoming a hollow shell of a has-been spiritual arsenal.  Revival is the only thing that can change that!  Most leading Christian leaders will tell us that we are at a cross roads in these last days.  The cross road is REVIVAL OR RUIN.  CONQUEST OR COLLAPSE.  STRONGHOLD OR SURRENDER.

As T.S. Eliot concludes his Hollow Men poem… he says, “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!”  Only you and I can see to it that the Church’s impact in these last days end with more than a whimper and a collapse of a hollow shell of hollow men…making the Church an empty Arsenal of Spiritual Power…still bearing the name…but far from the reality of the bang the Lord intends us to have as we end this Church age!   Revival or Ruin!  Let’s choose revival.  We need it.  The world needs us to experience it even more than we do!  Jesus said, “They that worship God must worship Him in Spirit and Truth”.  (John 4:4). He was talking about a spirituality that is possessed more than professed!  Francis Schaeffer wrote of this in his book True Spirituality!  A book written well ahead of its time. The time has come.

 

 Posted by at 10:40 pm

A VITAL VISION FOR THE CHURCH-ONE NEEDED FOR REVIVAL?

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Sep 302018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: A VITAL VISION FOR THE CHURCH-ONE NEEDED FOR REVIVAL?

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     A.W. Tozer wrote several years ago “If we, (who belong to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ), are ever going to bring back spiritual power to our lives-we must SEE God and Jesus AS THEY REALLY ARE!”.    We are told in First Peter that “having not seen Jesus, we love Him”. (I Peter 1:8).  We are also told that we serve a God who is invisible and “dwells in unapproachable light” (I Tim. 6:16). In Colossians 1:15 we are told that “Jesus Christ is the express image of that invisible God”.  We are also told in Hebrews 11:27 Moses “endured as seeing Him who is invisible”.  The question to be answered is then “how do we see Jesus Christ AS HE REALLY IS?”  One the very early reformers, Desiderius Erasmus, wrote a very interesting preface to his Greek New Testament.  He wrote, “The Bible will give you Christ…in an intimacy so close that He would be less visible if he stood before your eyes”. I believe that is true.  But I think that we have lost clear perception of the Christ that is revealed in Scripture.  Dr. Peter Kuzmic, President of the Evangelical Seminary in Osijek, Yugoslavia speaks to this issue.  He tells his students, “We must renew the credibility of the Christian Mission.  Missions and Evangelism are not primarily a question of Methodology, Money, and Management…but a question of authenticity, credibility, and spiritual power.  In going out to evangelize in Yugoslavia I frequently tell our seminary students that our main task may be to simply ‘wash the face of Jesus’ for it has been dirtied and distorted by the compromises of the institutional Christianity through the centuries and the angagonistic propaganda of athiestic communism in recent decades”.  That is not only true of Europe.  Even in America our perspective of the Jesus of Scripture has been dirtied and distorted by our failure to preach and teach the “truth about Him as presented in the Bible!”  Someone has written, “More than 1900 years ago there was a man born contrary to the laws of nature.  He lived in poverty and raised in obscurity.  He did not travel exclusively.  The only time He crossed the borders of His country was when He ventured into Egypt-as a child-fleeing Herod the Great.  His relatives were inconspicuous.  He had neither training nor formal education.  Yet in His Infancy-He startled a King.  in His childhood-He confused the Scholars; In His manhood He ruled the course of nature; He walked on the billows of the sea as if it was paved sidewalk; He put the raging sea to sleep by His own lullabies; He healed the multitudes and did not charge them for His services; He never wrote a book, yet all the libraries in this country could not hold the volumes written about Him.  He never wrote a song-yet He has inspired more songs than anyone in history.  He never founded a college-yet all the schools of all time, cannot boast of more students than the multitudes that have been discipled at His feet.  He never marshalled an army, nor drafted a soldier, nor fired a gun, yet no leader has ever had that many followers follow Him, and been under His marching orders, then all the armies of the world, and men and women have surrendered to Him without Him firing a shot.  He never practiced psychiatry-yet He has brought healing and stability to more people than all the counselors in the world combined!  He stands on the highest pinnacle of Heaven’s glory. Proclaimed by God-Acknowledged by Angels-Adored by Saints-Feared by Demons!  The Living Lord Jesus Christ-Lord and Savior!”

 

     H.G. Wells, the great historian, and not a Christian historian I might add, said that “historians give a test of greatness to men of history.  The big question is-what did they leave behind?  Did he start men to thinking in fresh lines?  Stimulate new vigor-followed after him? You judge the size of the ship by the size of the wake it leaves behind”.  What kind of wake did Jesus leave behind?  Bishop Stephen Neill, in his Interpretation of the New Testament, writes, “What kind of stone could it be that, once thrown into the pool of human existence could set in motion ripples that would go on spreading until the utmost rim of the world had been reached?” (p.19).   That is what Jesus did!  But have we lost that vision?  Do we still feel the awe and impact after these centuries? William Blake in his poem on The Vision of Christ doesn’t think so.

 

 

He wrote:  “The Vision of Christ that thou dost see

                                               Is my vision’s worst enemy.

                                               Thine has a great hooked nose like thine

                                               Mine a snubbed nose like mine!

                                               Both of us read the Bible day and night-

                                               You read it black, I read it white!”

 

Dorothy Sayers agrees with our distortion.  She says that the Church today has tamed the Biblical Christ.  She wrote:  “The Church has very efficiently clipped the claws of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah…and certified Him as a safe household pet for pale curates and old ladies!”  H.A. Ironside said that it is dangerous for Christians to traffic in unfelt truth.  In other words, we may know Jesus…without really KNOWING the Jesus of the New Testament in the fulness that we need!  IN OTHER WORDS, THERE MAY BE A GAP BETWEEN OUR VISION AND OUR VENTURE-BETWEEN OUR DOCTRINE AND OUR DUTY-BETWEEN OUR POSITION AND OUR PRACTICE-BETWEEN OUR PERSPECTIVE AND OUR PERFORMANCE!  When the Apostle John, banished to the Isle of Patmos, saw a vision of Christ, he was so awe-struck that he shared a transforming message to the Churches.  Perhaps we need to get a glimpse of that glory again.  Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade of Christ had such a life transforming vision.  He visited Scotland in 1947.  He spent time with the great N.T. scholar James Stewart.  Stewart told him-“Bill if we can show the world that being committed to Jesus Christ is not tame, humdrum, sheltered monotony-but instead the most exciting thrilling adventure a human spirit can ever know.  Those standing outside the Church looking in-wondering who Jesus is-will instead come in-crown Him King-pay allegiance to Him-and we will see the greatest revival THIS SIDE OF PENTECOST!”    That can still be true for us today.  We need a renewed and refreshed vision of Our Lord.

 

 Posted by at 2:10 am

The Bible: Relic or Relevant?

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Sep 232018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The Bible: Relic or Relevant?”

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     The Bible continues to be the perennial best seller of all books!  That being said, there is a legitimate question about the impact that it is currently having on lives in this 21st century.  Just before he gave up hosting the Tonight Show, Jay Leno did an on the street interview of people, and asked them Bible questions, and aired it on his show.  What was the results?  It was hilarious and horrific at the same time!  The questions were not tricky or hard.  They were intended to be easy.  That’s what made it so funny…and frightening!  Leno asked one person, “Did Adam and Eve have any children?”  After a few seconds of deep thought, a woman responded, “No, no, they never had kids!’  He then asked, “Can you name the two brothers…Cain…and———” Absolute blank stare.  Had no idea.  They were probably thinking Cain and Hurricane!  No… she had no answer.  Okay—“What happened to Lot’s wife?”  Zero response!  Someone blurted out, “Who is Lot?’  A little hint-“She turned into________” The person blurted out her guess—“An Angel?”  Leno then asked someone-“can you name one of the Apostles?”  No reply.  “How about one of the Beatles” Immediate response-“John, Paul, George, and Ringo!”  The crowd cheered!  “How many commandments are there?” One guy replied boldly-“Three! There are three commandments!”  Another corrected him-“No, everybody knows there are twenty…twenty commandments!”  Another in the crowd heard that and answered “no, it’s like the Apostles…there are twelve!”    Leno, assuming someone in the know asked, “can you name four of them?”  No one could name four.  “How about one?”  The man replied, “Something about not coveting your neighbor’s wife!”  (Leno said, “Interesting that is the only one he can remember!”).  Leno said, “You mean if she’s pretty?”  He said, “yea, I think that’s it!”  “Is your neighbor’s wife pretty?”  The man replied, “No!”  Leno told him, “I hope she is not watching tonight!” “Who was swallowed by a whale?” Leno asked.  The man responded, “A whale?  Is this a trick question?”  Let me give you a hint, Leno replied—“Jo….”  “Joan of Arc” was the quick response!  “No… Jo……..?”  “Joe DiMaggio?” “No” Jay told them.  Someone in the crowd asked…”Pinocchio?”  “Which two cities were destroyed in the Book of Genesis?”  “Let me give you a hint—Sodom________?”  “Saddam Hussein?”  This brief episode revealed that we live in a whole new world, and nothing has been more adversely affected by postmodernism than the Church and its relationship to God’s Word-The Holy Scriptures!  The sad thing may be that the Church may not have fared much better!  Bible Illiteracy is rampant.  But it hasn’t always been that way.  The Bible has impacted civilization all through out man’s history.  Some of the greatest thinkers of all time have been those who were literate of the Bible, and let it have an impact on their thinking and therefore their lives!

 

Novelist, Philosopher, Author, and Literary critic George Steiner wrote, in the New Yorker, some very affirming words on the influence that the Bible has had on civilization…until recent years.  He wrote, “One is indeed tempted to define modernism in Western Culture in terms of a recession of common currency recognition of both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.  That recognition was once the sinew of literacy, the shared matter of intellect and sentiment from the sixteenth century onward…not only in the spheres of personal and public piety, but also in those of politics, social institutions, and the life of literary and aesthetic imagination”.  Virginia Stem Owens, agreeing with Steiner, went on to say, “All Western literature… is a Midrash, (a commentary) on the Bible”. But she went on-“It has become like an unplayed Stradivarius, this once-Holy Text now inhabits the air-conditioned glass case of DISPASSIONATE DISREGARD!”  In other words, this Bible that used to be so revered and relevant…has become a revered but relegated relic!  George Herbert, in his book The Temple—1633 wrote, “Bibles laid open…millions of surprises!”  We have forgotten that!  Not only is it full of surprises…but full of power that we are desperately in need of.  John Calvin wrote, “No human writings, however sacredly composed, are at all capable of affecting us in a similar way.  Read Demosthenes or Cicero, read Plato or Aristotle, or any other of that class.  You will, I admit, feel wonderfully allured, pleased, moved, enchanted; but turn from them to reading the Sacred Volume, and it will so pierce your heart, so work its way into your very marrow that the comparison to that of orators and Philosophers will disappear, making it manifest that in the Sacred Volume there is a Truth Divine, something that makes it superior to all the gifts and graces attainable by man!”  C.I. Schofield, (author of the Schofield reference Bible), wrote “I gave much of my earlier life to the study of Homer and Shakespeare, and while my understanding undoubtedly profited from that study, I found keen intellectual delight in it, these books held no rebuke for my sins, nor any power to lift me above them, but, when I came to the Bible and received Him, concerning whom, after all, the whole Book is written, I entered into peace, joy, and power.  The Bible led me to Jesus and Jesus transformed my life!”

 

 

 

     That truth is expressed so well in a poem by the great Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier:

 

“We searched the world for Truth; 

We cull the good, the pure, the beautiful;

From graven tombs and written scroll. 

From all old flower fields of the soul;

And weary seekers of the best,

We come laden back from our quest,

And find that all the sages said,

Is in the Book our mothers read!”

 

We could save ourselves a lot of fruitless search if we understand that the “beginning of wisdom is in God’s Word”.  Luther sought for salvation, God, and truth desperately.  To no avail.  But as he studied Scripture he not only found the Jesus Christ as Savior, but truth for his generation, and just sharing it brought about the Great Protestant Reformation, that is still evidenced today in Evangelical Christianity.  Luther spoke about how that happened.  He wrote: “Take me for example.  I opposed indulgences and all papists; but never by force.  I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word.  Otherwise I did nothing.  And then, while I slept…the Word so greatly weakened the Papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it.  I did nothing.  The Word did it all!  Had I wanted to start trouble…I could have started a little game at Worms that even the emperor wouldn’t have been safe.  But what would it have been?  A mug’s game.  I did nothing.  I left it to the Word!  The Word did it all!”  It still does!  If we will embrace the Word and unleash the Word.  The greatest quote concerning the Bible comes from The Prince of All Preachers-Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  Someone had asked him about whether we should defend the Bible.  He gave his answer in an Address to the Annual Meeting of the British and Foreign Bible Society, May 5th, 1875.  He spoke-“There seems to me to have been twice as much done in some ages in defending the Bible as in expounding it, but if the whole of our strength shall henceforth go to the exposition and spreading of it, we may leave it pretty much to defend itself.  I do not know whether you see that lion-it is very distinctly before my eyes; a number of persons advance to attack him, while a host of us would defend the Lion, with all our strength…pardon me if I might offer a suggestion.  Open the door and let the lion out; he will take care of himself.  Why, they are gone!  He no sooner goes froth in his strength than his assailants flee.  The way to meet infidelity is to spread the Bible.  The answer to every objection against the Bible is the Bible.  Defend the Bible?  I would just a well defend a lion!”  Good advice!  Open the Bible and turn God’s ferocious Word loose.  Isaiah said, “Unleash God’s Word…It will not return void!” (Isaiah 55).

 

 Posted by at 12:39 pm

“THE CROSS OF CHRIST STILL TOWERS OVER THE WRECKS OF TIME!”

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Sep 162018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE:  “THE CROSS OF CHRIST STILL TOWERS OVER THE WRECKS OF TIME!”

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     The year was 1970, the tail end of the wild ’60’s in American history.  Dr. E. Stanley Jones, the famous Methodist missionary/author/evangelist was asked to name the number one problem of the Church.  He replied quickly, without hesitation-“the number one problem of the Church today is irrelevance!”  He went on to say that most of the opposition to the Church today stems from disappointment.  We promise to make men different-but somehow leave them indifferent!  The promise goes largely unfulfilled.  Dr. Jones went on to tell the story of a millionaire who said, “If Brother Stanley cannot convert me, I will sue him!” half in jest, and half seriously.  Dr. Jones explained, “What the world is saying is that if the Church cannot deliver on the message it preaches, we will sue you for breach of promise.  You promised this, now deliver.  Show us you can convert us, there is no other hope any other direction”.  A fairly recent Gallup poll reports that 77% of those surveyed feel that the Church is losing its influence in America.  George Barna puts it very bluntly: “Let’s cut to the chase.  After two decades of studying the Church in America, I am convinced that the typical Church as we know it has a rapidly expiring shelf-life!”  In 1998 he predicted that the Church would experience a massive revival or major ruin!   Nearly twenty years later you be the judge!  Have we seen a massive revival?  Or a melt-down of ruin?  Have we seen penetration or metrification?  Explosion or Implosion?  The Church in America has lost its influence.  As the world has grown darker we have neglected to fan the flame, and reflect the Light of our Glorious Lord into that darkness.  G. Campbell Morgan remarked, “The Church did the most for the world when it was least like the world”.

 

Ephesians is the N.T. parallel of the O.T. book of Joshua.  In Joshua, as he began to lead the People of God, into the darkness of the Idolatry of the Land of Canaan, God told him, “Every place your foot shall tread on that land have I given you, as I told Moses” (Joshua 1:3).  Joshua and the people of God, in the Old Testament were commanded to walk in the land and every step would be a conquering step by the power of God, dispelling the darkness of the Land with the Glorious presence of the LORD.  Today as Paul tells Christians to Walk in Life, in Liberty, in Light, and in Love that is more than verbiage and imagery.  It is the power of God, sending us out into the kingdom of darkness.  Each step replaces death with life; each step replaces defeat with liberty; each step replaces darkness with light; each step replaces despair with love!  In Philippians Paul told the Philippians to rejoice because all of his seemingly adverse circumstances had “fallen out unto the furtherance of the Gospel!” (Phil. 1:12).  The word “furtherance” is the word-prokope-which means “advance forward”.

 

Instead of retreating in our influence, God wants us to have a walk that will take us forward into the world.  One that is anointed with His power.  One that will conquer with each step!    We can see this happen as a slow but saturating sunrise, or a slow but systematic shining.  David told his son Solomon that God can penetrate darkness in the way he does it every twenty four hours!  In Proverbs 4:18 David said, “The steps of the righteous are like the rising sunlight, which shines a little, and a little more, until the day dawns, and the full day arises and shines in its fullness!”  Or we can do what Jesus said, “Let your light so shine among men that they will see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).  Or what Paul wrote in Philippians 2:15-16 “be harmless and blameless Children of God…shining as lights in a crooked and perverse world, holding forth the Word of Life”. 

 

 

At one of the darkest times in his life, one filled with anxiety, depression, and drugs, Hank Williams captured this truth in his familiar Gospel Song-” I wandered so aimless, life filled with sin; I wouldn’t let my dear Savior in; Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night; Praise the Lord-I saw the Light!”     That same light, emanating from our Glorious Savior, reflecting off the faces of His dear children, who make up His Church, still has the power to light up the darkness!  Don’t ever doubt that.   C.S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity like I believe in the Sun.  Not just because I see it, but by it I see clearly everything else!”  God’s light has a way of doing that still today.

 

When Robert Louis Stevenson was a young child he was sick a lot.  He couldn’t go out and play with the other children much.  He spent a lot of time watching at the window.  One evening he sat there while the sun was going down, and darkness was setting on the town.  He watched as a man, the lamplighter came down the street lighting the gas lamps.  His nurse came upon him and asked what he was watching.  He said, “I am watching the man punch holes in the darkness!”  It must have seemed like that.  Each newly lit lamp dispelled the area darkness until soon the entire town was aglow with the warm light of the lamps.  Our nation, our state, our city, our neighborhoods could use a little “punching of holes in the darkness”.  We can do it one step at a time, while we wait for the sunrise!  Amen?

 

On the south coast of China, on a hill overlooking the harbor of Macao, Portuguese settlers once built a massive cathedral.  But a typhoon proved stronger than the work of man’s hands, and some centuries ago the building fell in ruins, except for the front wall.  High upon that jutting wall, challenging the elements down through the years, is a great bronze cross.  In 1825 Sir John Bowring was shipwrecked near there.  Clinging to the wreckage of his ship, at long last he caught sight of that great cross; it showed him the path of deliverance, safety, and salvation.  After his dramatic rescue he was moved to write those familiar words, that later became his hymn that has blessed millions:

 

     “In the cross of Christ I glory,

      Towering over the wrecks of time;     

      All the light of the sacred story,    

      Gathers round its head sublime”.

 

That is why the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians-“I am determined not know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified” (I Cor. 2:2).  Helmut Thielicke wrote about the secret of the greatest preacher the world has ever seen-Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  He wrote, “In the midst of the theologically discredited nineteenth century there was s preacher who had at least six thousand people in his congregation every Sunday, whose sermons for many years were cabled to New York every Monday and reprinted in the leading newspapers of the country, and who occupied the same pulpit for almost forty years with any diminishment in the flowing abundance of his preaching and without ever repeating himself or preaching himself dry.  The fire he thus kindled, and turned into a beacon that shone across the seas and down through the generations, was no mere brush fire of sensationalism, but an inexhaustible blaze that glowed and burned on solid hearths…fed by the eternal Word.  Here was the miracle of a bush that burned with fire and yet was not consumed”.  When asked the key to his powerful preaching Spurgeon said, “I announce my text…and make a bee-line for the cross!”  THAT CROSS TOWERS OVER THE WRECKS OF TIME-AND BRINGS RESCUE AND RESTORATION OUT OF THOSE WRECKS!  LIFT IT UP HIGH…THE WAY OF THE CROSS LEADS HOME!

 

 Posted by at 12:56 pm

“The LORD of the Sum of All The Parts!”

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Sep 092018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE:  “The LORD of the Sum of All The Parts!”

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     Jay Rathman was hunting deer in the Tehema Wildlife Area near Red Bluff in northern California.  He climbed to a ledge on the slope of a rocky gorge.  As he raised his head to look over the ledge above, he sensed movement to the right of his face.  A coiled rattlesnake struck with lightning speed, just missing Rathman’s right ear!  The four-foot snake’s fangs got snagged in the neck of Rathman’s wool turtleneck sweater, and the force of the strike caused it to land on his left shoulder.  It then coiled around the neck.  He grabbed it behind the head with his left hand and could feel the warm venom running down the skin of his neck, the rattles making a furious racket.  He fell backward and slid headfirst down the steep slope through brush and lava rocks, his rifle and binoculars bouncing beside him.  “As luck would have it”, he would later report, “I ended up wedged between some rocks with my feet caught uphill from my head.  I could barely move!”  He got his right hand on his rifle and used it to dislodge the fangs from his sweater, but the snake had enough leverage to strike again!  “He made about eight attempts to hit me with his nose hitting me just below my eye four times.  I kept my head turned so he could not get a good angle with his fangs.  But oh, it was so very close.  This snake and I were eyeball to eyeball and I found out that snakes do not blink!  He had fangs that looked like darning needles!  I had to choke him to death.  It was the only way out.  I was afraid that with all the blood rushing to my head that I would become light headed and pass out.  After I strangled the snake, I tried to toss the dead snake aside, but my hands could not let go!  I had to pry my fingers from its neck!”  Rathman, who was 45, and worked for the Department of Defense in San Jose, said the entire encounter lasted 20-30 minutes!  Warden David Smith of the Wildlife Area says of meeting Rathman: “He walked toward me holding this string of rattles and said with a grin on his face, ‘I’d like to register a complaint about your wildlife here!’ ” 

 

When I first read that account I thought of how that Old Serpent the Devil attacks us!  He is always watching for his moment to strike.  Our struggle against him is a matter of life and death for our Christian lives.  He is not called the Great Dragon; That Old Serpent; A Roaring Lion; a Murderer; the Destroyer; The Tempter; a Liar; a Deceiver; Our enemy for no reason.  The Bible tells us always to be on the alert…To live our lives watchful lest we be struck suddenly by his vicious attack.  He makes the Christian life such a struggle.  We sometimes lose some battles with him.  We, when we rely on the Power and Presence of our Lord, win the battles.  Overall, we know that we have already won the war.  We are not fighting for battle, we are fighting from Battle.  We serve a LORD that always causes us to Triumph over the Evil one.  That being said, sometimes our progress in the Christian life is three steps forward, two steps back.  Sometime ours chart of progress in Christ does not show a steady climb to victory, but looks more like a roller coaster at Six Flags.  Up and Down…Up and Down…Up and Down.  Hopefully with more ups than downs!  But not always…unfortunately.  How are we to evaluate our Christian lives?

 

 

I read a quote the other day that really spoke to my heart.  It is a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Emerson wrote, “The years teach much that the days never know”.  Aristotle, the great philosopher, and teacher of Alexander the Great spoke a similar word.  He said, “The whole is greater than the sum of all the parts!”  Both of them are saying that do not measure your progress by a few secluded individual daily encounters.  Sometimes you can’t see the big picture.  Your current struggles can be overwhelming and discouraging.  Recent failures can weigh heavy and cause past victories to pale from your memory, and cause fear that you will lose more struggles, and the devil can use that fear to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  You read in Scriptures about those the enemy sifted like wheat.  But the LORD encouraged them to rebound, get back into the battle, let Him fight the Battle for them, and they could begin following up with a victory, then another to make that one look small, and turn the entire conflict around!  “The whole is greater than the sum of all the parts!”  “Years of victory will overshadow the days of defeat!”    During the dark days of WWII, the clear and challenging voice of Winston Churchill told the allies that it was “not the end!”  He told them “it was not the beginning of the end!”  He instead told them that it was more likely “The end of the beginning!”  Their “beginning” was coming to an end.  They would now move on to victory that would soon cause all past struggles and defeats to pale in light of the great coming victory.  That is the perspective that we need to keep our eyes fastened to.  Another applicable quote here might be “Those who ignore history have no past, and no future!”  But if we look clearly at history...”Those who make history are those who submit to the One who Orchestrates it!”  That is what the Apostle John was telling his dear Children.  He told them that Jesus Is LORD.  He is LORD of LIGHT; HE IS LORD OF LIFE; HE IS LORD OF LIBERTY; HE IS LORD OF LOVE.  He went on to tell them that as the LORD…i.e. “The Great I AM”…that I will be ALL you NEED ME to BE and make you all you will ever need to become.  With His LORDSHIP they will experience all the sum of all the parts they need and my Fully Experiencing Him as LORD they would find “the whole is greater than the sum of all the parts!” They would also experience years of fullness and victory that their individual days may never know!  HE IS THE LORD OF THE WHOLE THAT THEY NEED! THE LORD OF THE SUM OF ALL THE PARTS.  THE LORD OF LIGHT; LIFE; LIBERTY; AND PERFECTING LOVE.  What else could we need?

 

 Posted by at 3:40 pm

“Mankind has it again…the unyielding despair of death!”

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Sep 022018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Mankind has it again…the unyielding despair of death!” 

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     Several years ago, a young medical student graduated and moved to a small town to begin his practice.  He so wanted to be a success in helping people with their multi-faceted maladies.  He had dedicated his life to this very cause.  An old man was his very first patient.  The young doctor wanted so to make a very good first impression.  The old man listed all of his ailments and waited for the Dr. to give him his diagnosis.  After a long examination the young doctor had no clue what was wrong with his patient.  The doctor asked him, “have you ever had this before?”  The old man replied, “yes many times!”  The doctor said, “well…it looks like you have it again!”  When the world tries to figure out what in the world is wrong with mankind…we have to come to the conclusion that we definitely have the malady again.  Every person…every generation…we all have the same disease that brings about the same result…death.  God warned man to avoid the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  God warned the first couple do not eat of that tree…for the day you eat thereof…”in dying you shall die!”  (the Hebrew is quite expressive-“you will die that moment spiritually…a process of dying physically will set in, and if not cured the end result will be eternal death!”).  Redemption in Jesus Christ is the only answer to this malady.  But keep in mind that the devil denied that sin would bring forth death.  He told Eve, “You shall not surely die!”  But every since that first eventful encounter-as the Book of Romans tells us “death has reigned over mankind“.

Man has written much about this enemy that has us in its grip.  “April is the cruelest month” begins the first line of T.S. Eliot’s poem Wasteland.  His poem is thought to be a portrayal of universal despair, where we lie in wait between the unrelenting force of spring and the dead of coming constant contrast of winter!  In the bold display of life’s unending circles, one can only be left to wonder at the point of it all!  Does everything simply fade into a Wasteland of Death?  Is death the last desperate word?  Perhaps this is the very thing that Isaiah had in mind when he protested...”In the prime of life must I go through the gates of death and be robbed of the rest of my years?  For the grave cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise.  The living, the living —they praise you as I am doing today” (Isaiah 38:18-19b).  Though to a differing degree and conclusions much of our literature is unapologetically full of a sense of deep irony expressed at times in the fullness of futility.  Euripides, a writer in the fifth century B.C., expressed this futility to his generation.

 

He wrote, ” and so we are sick for life, and cling

                        On earth to this nameless thing.

                        For other life is a fountain sealed

                        And the deeps below us are unrevealed

                        And we drift on legends forever”

(Euripides, Hippolytus, Lines 195-199)

 

Shakespeare, with the lips of McBeth writes…

“tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

                        creeps in this petty pace from day to day.

                        To the last syllable of recorded time;

                        And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

                        The way to dusty death; Out, out brief candle!

                        Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player,

                        That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

                        And is heard from no more.  It is a tale,

                        Told by an Idiot, full of sound and fury,

                        Signifying nothing!” (McBeth. Act 5. Scene 5, 19-28).

 

The philosopher Nietzsche called mankind “species of the dead…a very rare species”.  Bertrand Russell said that mankind has no choice to “build their lives on the firm foundation of unyielding despair”.  Referring to the fact that death hangs over our heads like a sword of Damocles.  The world has no hope to offer us.  Atheists tell us that we evolved from death, lifeless matter, we experience life briefly, then we return to the nothingness of death!  in other words, life is an unnecessary chance interruption in the midst of cosmic death.  No wonder atheist Albert Camus maintained that in light of that kind of meaningless of life the only serious philosophical question is whether or not to commit suicide!  That has caused comedians to make light of this human dilemma.  Woody Allen said, “I am not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens!”  George Burns said, “If you live to be 100, you have got it made.  Very few people die past that age!”  (He lived to be 100 and did just that…”he died!”).  Steven Wright said, “I intend to live forever…so far so good!”  But though these comments make us laugh…they really are no comfort for our dilemma!  Even Oscar Wilde wrote the book the Picture of Dorian Gray, the story of a man who sells his soul for ceaseless youth.  Old man wrinkle cannot touch him.  Everyone marvels at his eternal youthfulness.  But his beauty hides a soul marked with greed, lust and betrayal.  A painting of him shows the condition of his inner life.  Initially the face in the painting is as handsome as he is in real life.  But his sin begins to be reflected on the canvas.  Every act of deceit, betrayal, and greed becomes another wrinkle or pockmark or twisted feature until at last the face in the painting is too hideous to bear.  He hides it in the attic.  And in the end, when death comes for him, the painting is who he becomes!

 

In the movie Shadowlands, it is shown that one of the reasons why Joy Davidman fell in love with Lewis is because of his theology of heaven and also his beautiful depictions of how Christ was an answer to man’s dilemma of sin and death.  He not only taught it in his theology, but illustrated it in his Chronicles of Narnia.  In his book the Silver Chair King Caspian lay under a clear stream.  (Dead).  The children weep.  Even Aslan weeps.  Aslan tells Eustace to get a thorn and push it into his paw.  As a result, a drop of blood falls into the stream and King Caspian leaps up, no longer old, but a young man.  He rushes to Aslan…and flung his arms as far around him as far as they would reach.  He gives Aslan kisses as a King, and Aslan gives him kisses from a Lion.  Eustace says, (concerning Caspian), “hasn’t he…died?”  “Yes”, says Aslan.  “He has died.  Most people have you know.  Even I have.  There are very few who haven’t!”  Lewis was trying to get us to focus on the eternal dimension of the present.  Many more people have died, and due to the blood of Christ, they have entered into eternal life.  Many more people have died and now live than are present on the earth currently.  Knowing that should change our perspective.  In the Last Battle, the final chapter is ‘Farewell to the Shadowlands”.  Aslan tells the children what has happened to them.  He tells them that there has been an accident.  He then tells them the truth…”Your father and mother and all of you are-as you used to call it in the Shadowlands-dead!  The term is over.  The holidays have begun.  The dream is ended.  This is the morning…the things that begin to happen to them after that are so great and beautiful that I cannot write them…we can most truly say they lived happily ever after.  For them it was only the beginning of the real story.  All their life in this world, and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read:  which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before!”  In other words, the Christian view is that we were created to live, death is a temporary interruption in this life, only to be followed by eternal life that can never be taken away- for it is the gift of life from the Christ of Calvary.  Fyodor Dostoyevsky saw this when he said, “One day man’s wisdom will not come out of books, but from the presence of the Living God, and our Earth will glow brighter than the sun, and there will be no more sadness!”  The devil moved us into the realm of death…and shouted “checkmate”.  But our King had one more move…and shouted “Life…Eternal…for all who Know Me!  I am the LORD OF LIFE AND DEATH”.

 

 Posted by at 10:24 pm