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May 312020


His name was Alexander Murray Palmer Haley. He was an American writer. He was born in 1921 and died in 1992. He became a household name when his book Roots: The Saga of an American Family was adapted by ABC into a TV mini-series and was seen by over 130 million viewers in 1977. It was a great influence on awareness in the United States of African-American history and inspired a broad interest in genealogy and family history, not just of African Americans, but of all races! What you may not know is that Alex Haley had a favorite painting. It was on the wall of his office. It caught your attention as soon as you entered the door. It was a picture of “a turtle on a fence-post”. Haley always remarked about the picture-“If you ever see a turtle on a fence-post you can be certain he didn’t climb to that height by himself!” Haley said that picture was a reminder to him to remember that anything he might pat himself on the back for accomplishing in life should also include the recognition of all the others who had helped him reach those heights. Somehow, I think there is a spiritual message in there for you and I. We are, spiritually speaking, “turtles on a fence-post”. Any heights that we have scaled in our Christian lives is due to “the supernatural power of God, by the workings of the Holy Spirit in us” and the “mentoring of other Christians who told us to follow them as they followed Jesus Christ”! The Christian life is not lived by “picking one’s self up by your own boot-straps!” As we conclude the Winter Bible Study of 2016-The Book of 2 Corinthians, Paul encourages believers at Corinth to Embrace The Faith, and by the Power of the Holy Spirit in their lives, go on to maturity. Those words and truths are still very relevant for us today. Dorothy Sayers, in her book The Mind of the Maker, talks about how God is creative and powerful. That is His nature. Since He created us in His image we share in this creativity and power. She says, “we are most like our God when we exhibit His love and our work in a finite yet glorious way while we create something–whether it is a story, a song, a painting, a sculpture, a photo, or dance”. She sees the power of the writer expressed in a three-fold manner. First, as though in the mind of the author. Then written and produced in the written product of the book. Thirdly, the power is demonstrated and incarnated as the book is read. There the power of the author is unleashed and the transforming power soon becomes manifest for good or evil, depending on the motive of the author. This illustrates the way the Christian is transformed. As Paul said in II Corinthians 3:18, “But we all, with unveiled faces, beholding in the mirror the glory of the LORD, are being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, just as from the LORD, by the Spirit”. When we as Christians, behold the glory of Jesus, as revealed in His word, by reading it, it has power, and the Holy Spirit uses that image to focus our minds upon, and then by His presence and power, thought by thought, action by action, by His power, moment by moment, in an unseen way, transforms us to be more like Jesus. Then Sayers says this power is not easily seen, nor analysed.

She writes, ” the Power of its effect upon the responsive mind… is a very difficult thing to examine and analyze, because our own perception of the thing is precisely what we are trying to perceive. We can, as it were, note various detached aspects of it: what we cannot pin down and look at is the movement of our own mind. In the same way, we cannot follow the movement of our own eyes in a mirror. We can, by turning our head, observe them in this position and in that position with respect to our body, but never in the act of moving themselves from one position to the other, and never in the act of gazing at anything but the mirror. Thus, our idea of our self is bound to be falsified, since what to others appears the most lively and mobile part of our self, appears to us unnaturally fixed. The eye is the instrument by which we see everything, and for that reason it is the one thing we cannot see with truth. The same thing is true of our Power of response to a book, or to anything else; incidentally, this is why books about the Holy Ghost are apt to be curiously difficult and unsatisfactory-we cannot really look at the movement of the Spirit, just because It is the Power by which we do the looking.” When I read what she wrote about not being able to see our own eye movements I had to check that out. Sure enough that is true.

Read the following: “First, grab a mirror. Second, grab a family member, friend or colleague. Now you are ready to begin. Stand in front of the mirror about 6 inches away. Look from eye to eye. Observe that as you do this, you will not be able to see your eyes move nor will you feel your eyes moving. Now have someone watch your eyes as you do this experiment again. They will however, see your eyes moving back and forth. The truth is that we cannot see our eyes in motion. We can see other’s eyes in motion and other people can see ours, but we cannot see our own eyes move. This phenomenon is called Saccadic Masking. A saccade is a movement of the eye when it makes a sudden change of fixation, i.e. looking from one eye to the other. As our eyes move, there is a blurring of the image on the retina. To counteract this so that the image stays clear and sharp, a part of the brain, believed to be the cortex, cuts off the processing of images. What happens is that we go momentarily blind as the visual information is no longer going to the brain, therefore stopping the blur. We can’t see this happening as it is done automatically and quickly thousands of times a day”. Sayers’ words,” The same thing is true of our Power of response to a book, or to anything else; incidentally, this is why books about the Holy Ghost are apt to be curiously difficult and unsatisfactory-we cannot really look at the movement of the Spirit, just because It is the Power by which we do the looking.”-She reminded me of C.S. Lewis’ quote-“I believe in the Sun, not just because I see it, but also because by it I see everything else!”

The transformation by the Spirit, in our lives, is something really happening, though we may not be able to see it while it is occurring. Another of my favorite writers, as you know, is the Presbyterian minister Frederick Buechner. I do not always agree with his theology, and everything he says, but I do love the way he says things. They illustrate some truths in a magnificent way. In his book Telling the Truth, Buechner writes, “In the Happy Hypocrite Max Beerbohm 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 bloated features with the mask of a saint. The girl is deceived and becomes his bride, and they live together happily until a wicked lady from Lord George Hell’s wicked past turns up to expose him for the scoundrel she knows him to be and challenges him to take off the mask. So sadly, having no choice, he takes it off, and lo beneath the saint’s mask is the face of the saint he has become by wearing it in love!” What a parable of the Christian life! We happy hypocrites experience His transforming touch, without being aware of it, until the time comes, we are completely transformed into the image we have been unsuccessfully beholding continuously in a mirror darkly! In that way we are all turtles…see you at the top of the fence-post!

 Posted by at 1:42 pm


 Uncategorized  Comments Off on “IDENTITY-YOU CAN’T GO BACK HOME TO FIND IT!”
May 242020


In 1975, two years before his death, Charlie Chaplin was visiting France. He visited nearby Monaco, and while there he entered “Charlie-Chaplin Look-Alike Contest”. He thought he was a shoe-in to win the prize money, and everyone would have a good laugh. Charlie came in third! Most thought it was due to the fact that most of his movies were in black and white, and in real life his genuine baby blues may have made him look less like Chaplin than at least two others in the contest. Coming in third in your own contest might just cause you to suffer an “identity crisis”! Identity crisis-i.e. “knowing who we really are”, can be devastating. Arthur Miller, in his book Death of A Salesman, brings that out in relation to his main character Willy Loman. In one excerpt Miller describes the precarious position of his character by saying, “He’s a man out there in the blue, riding a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back-that’s an earthquake. And then you get yourself a couple of spots on your hat, and you’re finished!” The identity crisis was too much for Willy to handle, and he ended up “taking his own life”. At the funeral, with just a hand-full of people there, Bif, his oldest son remarks, “Willy had all the wrong dreams…he never knew who he was!”

Miller was quite adept at describing not only Willy Loman’s predicament, but the one that the entire human race faces every day. Who are we? Why are we here? Where are we going? Is there any meaning to all of this? What is my mission for being here? Do I even have one? G.K. Chesterton, in his book Orthodoxy, points out that this is the condition of all human-kind apart from their relationship with God, through Jesus Christ. He writes, “We have all read in scientific books, and indeed in all romances, the story of the man who has forgotten his name. This man walks about the streets and can see and appreciate everything: only he cannot remember who he is. Well, every man is that man in the story. Every man has forgotten who he is…We are all under the same mental calamity; we have forgotten our names. We have all forgotten who we really are…we all feel the riddle of the earth without anyone to point it out. The mystery of life is the plainest part of it…Every stone or flower is a hieroglyphic of which we have lost the key; with every step of our lives we enter into the middle of some story we are certain to misunderstand”. Frederick Buechner points out that we lose our true identity, our “true shimmering self” that God intended for us to be by letting this world force us to become who they think we should be. In his book Telling Secrets he illustrates this: “Starting with the rather too pretty young woman and the charming but rather unstable young man, who together know no more about being parents than they do the far side of the moon, the world sets in to making us what the world would like us to be, and because we have to survive after all we try to make ourselves into something that we hope the world will like better than it apparently did the selves that we originally were. That is the story of all our lives, needless to say, and in the process of living out that story, the original shimmering self, (that God intended us to be through Him), gets buried so deep that most of us hardly end up living out of it at all. Instead, we live out all the other selves which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather!’ Buechner, in a later book Now and Then, went on to explain that we can recover the buried shimmering self though listening to God’s Word, listening to fellow Christian’s that God puts in our lives through His Church, but also by seeking His face in the experiences of life. He writes, “God speaks to us…through official channels as the Bible and the Church,…but I think He speaks to us largely through what happens to us…if we keep our hearts and minds open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize, beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that however little we may understand of it, at the time, His Word to each of us…is precious beyond telling”.  

Most people live their life with that Willey Loman identity crisis. David Letterman, in an interview not long before he retired, basically said that his sense of himself was only grounded in the twenty-four-hour period between shows. If the last show was good, he felt good about himself. If the audience didn’t respond, he felt horrible instead. Women often share the same identity crisis when society tells them their only value is in their external beauty. Marilyn Monroe, after becoming famously the most beautiful woman in the world, went to nightclubs disguised in a black wig to see if she could still attract a man as Norma Jean. When she got so much less response the emptiness of her Hollywood identity turned into a crisis that left her with the same fate as Willy Loman! That is why God comes to us, desires us to know Him, and find our true identity in who He intended us to be. Simon Tugwell writes, “So long as we imagine that it is we who have to look for God, we must often lose heart. But it is the other way about; He is looking for us. And so we can afford to recognize that very often we are not looking for God; far from it, we are in full flight from him, in high rebellion against Him. And He knows that and has taken it into account. He has followed us into our own darkness; there where we thought we finally escaped Him, we run straight into His arms. So we do not have to erect false piety for ourselves, to give us hope for salvation. Our hope is in His determination to save us, (see the Cross), and He will not give up!” Finding our identity in Christ, through the salvation that God provides through His grace, is the only way to be completely at peace with who we are and what God is making us to be. Gerald May, a dynamic Christian counselor who deals with battles that Christians struggle with all the time says: “There is a desire within each of us, in the deep center of ourselves which we call heart. We are born with it, it is never completely satisfied and it never dies. We are often unaware of it, but it is always awake…Our true identity, our reason for being, is found in this desire”.

Peter had found this identity in Christ. Jesus had called him to follow Him, and to become a fisher of men. After Calvary, and even after the resurrection, Peter was still languishing with an “identity crisis”. He decided that he would go back home, take up the fishing for fish business, and walk away from what he had been called to do. He found out what Thomas Wolfe found out, and expressed in his great novel-You Can’t Go Home Again. After Jesus…Peter’s identity was never to be on the old shores of the Sea of Galilee. It was going to take him on a mission…with His Master still by his side. He would become even more than he ever dreamed on that first day he forsook the boats and the nets to follow Jesus! But before he can set off to discover his true destiny he must ask and answer the question Jesus asked him about MISSION-OR MISSING? Which would it be? So must we! It’s our identity!

 Posted by at 1:34 pm

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Our Supreme Hunger Can Only Be Filled by A Different Kind of Bread”- Ravi Zacharias

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May 172020

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Our Supreme Hunger Can Only Be Filled by A Different Kind of Bread”- Ravi Zacharias

In our sermon series on Mark, we have come to Mark 6. John The Baptist was just murdered by Herod. Jesus is devastated by the murder of John and tells his disciples that there was no one greater in influence for the Kingdom Of God than John. There is a spirit of animosity toward Rome and this movement is eyeing Jesus as maybe the one to bring deliverance from the Yoke of Rome. Mark’s Gospel was written to show that Jesus was not the source of that kind of a revolutionary movement. Jesus’ miracles as the Suffering Servant of Yahweh was for deeper purposes than for political movements. He came, not to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom to save and redeem those who would believe in Him. (Mark 10:45). In Mark 6 we also encounter a miracle that is so important it is recorded in all four of the Gospel narratives. It is in Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 8; and John 6. The first narrative written was Mark, giving Peter’s eyewitness account of it. That was then followed a few year’s by Matthew’s narrative; then Luke, doing careful research from all living eyewitnesses, and sources followed with his account. Finally, nearly forty years after the narrative of Mark, the aged Apostle John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, adds supplemental and clarifying details that only he could give. All of those narratives are in agreement, with John’s gospel giving theological interpretation on the historical narratives that preceded his story. Mark also describes a second feeding of a multitude, in a Gentile area, to Gentile recipients, showing that Jew and Gentile alike have a hunger for God, that can only be filled by partaking of the Bread of Life, The True Bread from Heaven, The Bread of God, the only possible life-giving source for this kind of hunger. Mark lets us know that after the first group ate to their fill, that the disciples took up twelve baskets of leftovers (Mark 6:43). The word for basket here is the word-“kophinos”- referring to a small Jewish wicker basket used for carrying food. But when we read the narrative of feeding the 4,000, in Mark 8, we are told that the fragments remaining that were gathered were seven baskets full. The word basket here is the word “sphuris”-A gentile basket, large enough for carrying a man-(Acts 9:25). These two narratives of Mark show that Jesus came as the Bread from Heaven, to satisfy the hunger of the Jews, and of the Gentiles alike. Any who are willing to partake of His sacrifice as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53- “By the stripes” of His broken body, they are healed, and become those who are partakers of eternal life, and shall never hunger again. According to Isaiah 55 all are urged to “come and partake and buy with no money”. That is the fulfillment of that prophetic invitation here in Mark 6 + 8.

When it comes to Jesus’ miracles, C.S. Lewis writes “Miracles are a retelling in small letters the same story written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see!” Augustine said, “Miracles aren’t contrary to nature, only contrary to what we know about nature!” G.K. Chesterton wrote, “We are perishing for the want of wonder, not for the want of wonders!” My favorite is Frederick Buechner who writes, “A miracle is when the whole is greater than the sum of all the parts. A miracle is one plus one equals-a thousand!” Can we say-“5,000? How about 4,000?” This miracle speaks to the hunger of the entire human race, Jew and Gentile, who have a hunger that goes far beyond that which is satisfied by physical bread! Ravi Zacharias, in his book Jesus Among Other gods, wrote, “With all our ingesting and consumption our hungers are many and our fulfillments few!” He also said, “Jesus fed the multitudes with bread to lift them from the barrenness of a food dominated existence to the recognition that our supreme hunger can only be filled by a different kind of bread”. Jesus in John 6 makes this all very clear when He says that with “eating His flesh” no one will live eternally. That is today’s message. Let me share a poem that summarizes this truth very concisely.

Jesus is the Bread of Life

He’s the only one to satisfy

our every spiritual need

He assures us He will supply.


  that gnawing in our souls,

the hunger and the thirst

He will fulfill them all

when we seek Him first.




  Jesus is the Bread of Life,

He promises to deliver

all our spiritual desires

when we to Him surrender.


  His life and His death

brought all our worldly strife

now by faith, through grace

into everlasting life!


  Jesus is the Bread of Life,

He is all that our soul’s need

when we follow Him…

our heart’s He will surely feed! -Deborah Ann

 Posted by at 1:24 pm