“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.

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“How To Get a Solid Grace-Framed Agenda for the New Year”

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Jan 052020

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “How To Get a Solid Grace-Framed Agenda for the New Year”.  By:  Ron Woodrum   I want to begin this perspective with some advice, as I often do, from one of my favorite authors-Frederick Buechner. He writes, ” it is mainly for some clue to where I am going that I search through […]

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Ten Questions for a New Year

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Dec 292019

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE:   Ten Questions for a New Year Article by Don Whitney Professor, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It’s so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we’re […]

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“The Monster At the Manger”

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Dec 222019

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The Monster At the Manger”  By:  Ron Woodrum   Our January Bible Study for 2020 is the Book of Jeremiah. We have a lot of favorite verses in Jeremiah. One of the first ones is Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in thye womb, I knew you, before you were born, I set […]

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A Christmas essay: What the world needs now

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Dec 152019

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: A Christmas essay: What the world needs now DECEMBER 11, 2019 BY ERIC REED Tourists packing into the tiny mausoleum at Galla Placidia in Ravenna, Italy must be disappointed at first. Billed as the most spectacular and best-preserved mosaic in Christendom, the ceiling depicts Jesus surrounded by sheep in a green pasture. Travel […]

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“Mastering the Hardest Arithmetic-Counting Our Blessings!”

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Dec 012019

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Mastering the Hardest Arithmetic-Counting Our Blessings!”  By:  Ron Woodrum   This past week was Thanksgiving week. Eric Hoffer says it is the time to “master the hardest arithmetic-counting our blessings!” G.K. Chesterton said, “I would maintain that thanks is the highest form of thought, and gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder”. He also […]

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Nov 242019

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “THANKSLIVING: It’s better than THANKSGIVING!”  By:  Ron Woodrum   I am not sure when, where, or who first used the term “thanksliving”. Peter Gomes, renowned preacher of Harvard University in the 20th Century, (though not one I am particularly able to embrace the theology he embraced), wrote that he had a friend who […]

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“Encountering a Living Presence”

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Nov 172019

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE; “Encountering a Living Presence”.  By:  Ron Woodrum         Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president of the United States, told a very fascinating story about an encounter he had while getting his hair cut at a Barbershop. Listen to his words: “I was sitting in a barber chair when I was aware that a powerful personality […]

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Nov 102019

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “GOD GIVES JACOB HOLY HEAVEN…AND IT’S ON THE HOUSE!”  By:  Ron Woodrum   The book of Genesis makes no attempt to conceal the fact that Jacob was, among other things, a crook. What’s more, you get the feeling that whoever wrote up his seamy adventures got a real kick out of them. Twice […]

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

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Nov 032019

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The greatness of a man is the measure of his surrender!”  By:  Ron Woodrum   Most of us are very familiar with the ministry of the Salvation Army. We have all given donations to the Red Kettle, and probably many of us have even taken a turn or two at “ringing the bell”.  […]

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