“The unedited Christmas and the Perfect Tree”

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Nov 292020

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The unedited Christmas and the Perfect Tree”

     It’s the king of all classic TV Christmas specials: “A Charlie Brown Christmas“.  It first aired in 1965.  We know the familiar scenes of Charlie Brown looking for the real meaning of Christmas; receiving no cards from anyone; Snoopy decorates his doghouse; Lucy has her Christmas pageant; Charlie picks out a tree that is pitiful and is laughed at for such a choice!  Of course, Charlie cries out in frustration-“doesn’t anyone know what the true meaning of Christmas is?”  At that moment Linus Van Pelt takes center stage telling Charlie-“I can tell you what Christmas is all about”.  He then proceeds to quote the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke.  He not only describes the angelic visit, but then quotes how the angels said, “Be not afraid…for unto you is born this day, in Bethlehem, a Savior which is Christ the Lord.  This shall be a sign you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘glory to God in the highest and on earth peace good will toward men'”.  “That is what Christmas is all about!” Linus affirms.  Recently I heard an interview of one of the creators of that show.  When Charles Shultz, the creator of Peanuts, Charlie Brown, and that particular Christmas special suggested that particular drama he was met with strong opposition, and objection to airing that because of the inclusion of the message centering around Jesus…the Savior.  The network wanted to edit out the part about Jesus being the central meaning of Christmas.  The network wanted to tube the show.  They feared there would be strong opposition to it, and it would result in loss of advertising.  You know what Charles Schultz did?  He stood his ground.  He said, “If we don’t do it who will?  We’re going to do it”…and the rest is history!  With his groundbreaking project on the line, Charles Schultz refused to “edit out Jesus!”  during that Christmas season in 1965.  It took courage!  God blessed him and us for that stand.  How about us this Christmas.  Are we willing to stand our ground and refuse to edit Jesus out of our Christmas pageants?  That is exactly what the devil wants us to do.  It is ok to celebrate the holidays!  Enjoy the festivities.  Just don’t get carried away with too much focus on Jesus.  His virgin birth.  His reason for coming.  Stay away from themes like Incarnation-God with us-Salvation as an unspeakable gift due to Calvary! 

     Charles Schultz was a master to have Charlie Brown find all the commercialization of Christmas leave him empty and confused.  He was a genius to make the center part of the pageant center around a little unattractive tree that everyone laughs at.  Then of course to answer Charlie’s question about the meaning of Christmas with God’s answer from Luke’s gospel, through the person of Linus!  Then Linus saying-“I never thought it was such a bad little tree at all really…maybe all it just needs is a little love!”  And Charlie Brown saying, “This little tree needs a home.  I think it needs me!”  The unattractive tree becomes a beautiful part of the Christmas story.  There are some subtle but significant messages in this pageant.  When Linus hears the angel say, “Be not afraid”…he lays his security blanket down!  Then that ugly tree seems to draw everyone to it to see it in a different light.  When they do…they give it a home and love…and find a home and love of their own! -Through that tree!  Subtle but significant message.  Makes me think of a song by Ray Boltz-called the Perfect Christmas Tree.  Listen to the words:

The ornaments are ready

The place has been prepared

Strings of lights and holly

Are draped across the chair

The family’s all together

I know where they must be

Everyone is searching

For the perfect tree

Mother wants a straight one

The children want it tall

Dad just hopes that somehow

He can get it down the hall

Soon they’ll gather round it

As proud as they can be

But when they look at it

I wonder if they see

The Perfect tree

Grew very long ago

And it was not decked with silver

Or ornaments of gold

But hanging from it’s branches

Was a gift for you and me

Jesus laid His life down

On that Perfect Tree

With all the celebrations

Sometimes the truth is lost

That every step this baby took

Brought Him closer to the cross!

That Perfect Tree needs some love and home.  If you embrace the one who died upon it, it will bring the real meaning of love and Christmas to your home this Christmas.  Don’t let anyone cause you to edit that message and that Savior out of your Christmas pageant.  Embrace Him and you too can turn loose of any and all of those security blankets that are fulfilling your deepest needs anyway.  That is the what Christmas means!

“THANKSGIVING-The inner health made audible…praise in it’s complete enjoyment…it’s appointed consummation”

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Nov 222020

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “THANKSGIVING-The inner health made audible…praise in it’s complete enjoyment…it’s appointed consummation”.

     Ian McPherson, Scottish novelist (1905-1944), tells about traveling across England by train one hot summer day.  As the train rolled to a stop in a little village, through the open windows of his train car, McPherson could hear someone outside shouting, “Praise! Praise! Praise!”.  MacPherson said he stuck his head out the window expecting to see a bearded Hebrew chanter singing one of the Old Testament canticles- like Psalm 150.  He was surprised to learn it was the conductor calling out the name of the local station which was P-R-A-Z-E, England!  He later told the conductor, as he disembarked the train, “It must be a wonderful thing to live in PRAISE (PRAZE)”.  In Psalm 150 the very Hebrew Psalmist who wrote that Psalm encourages us to make sure that “our new address is living in praise”-Our Heavenly Father deserves it, and we definitely need it!  Can you think of anything we need to cultivate more than a grateful heart?  To live in an attitude of praise would make life sweeter and better for all of us.  Thanksgiving reminds us of three things-We have a PERSON to thank; We have PARTICULARS to be thankful for; and we should have PASSION in our Thanksgiving!

     First of all, Thanksgiving reminds us we have a PERSON to Thank!  October 2, 1940, the Scottish Trawler, the Theresa Boyle, was bombed by Nazi Bombers, and sank into the North Sea during WWII.  The ship went down quickly. The small crew escaped with their lives.  But the exhausted crew was so cold and weak they could not row anymore, after fifty hours!  All seemed lost.  They heard a droning plane coming, which did a low pass over their lifeboat.  It then headed back fifteen miles to lead to minesweepers back to rescue the crew.  After they were safe on the minesweeper, and the plane flew away, one of the crew asked to use the radio to contact the plane.  The pilot asked if anything was wrong?  He responded, “no we survivors just want to tell him-THANK YOU!”    Katherine Mansfield, a New Zealand writer and poet, wrote to a friend, “I have just finished my new book.  I finished it last night at 10:30. I said, ‘Thank God!’  Oh, how I wish there were a God.  I am so longing to praise Him!’ ”  As Christians longing to praise someone, have that SOMEONE WHO DOES EXIST…TO PRAISE!

     Thanksgiving reminds us we have PARTICULARS TO BE THANKFUL FOR!  November 6, 1620 The Mayflower left Plymouth, England with 100 passengers aboard.  As the boat lay in anchor in Cape Cod Harbor, Nov. 11, 1620 The Mayflower Compact was signed by 41 passengers under Governor William Bradford. for a permanent settlement at Plymouth, Massachusetts.  Three years later the Governor decreed a three-day feast beginning on Thursday Nov. 29, 1623.  In spite of severe losses, great grief, and innumerable hardships…they found much to thank their Heavenly Father for, and set a pattern for all the world to follow their tradition!  We need to be reminded of that today.  I love Andre Crouch’s song “My Tribute”-How can I say thanks, for the things you have done for me, things so underserved!”  Amen?  The best Thanksgiving sermon I ever heard was by a Seventh Day Adventists named George Vandemann called…”I Wonder How to Thank Him?”.  Thanksgiving, counting our blessings, is a healthy thing to do!  Dr. A.J. Cronin, a British doctor who gave up his practice to become a writer.  He told of a fellow Physician who was known as the “Thank-you Dr.”  He made it a practice to prescribe to his emotionally disturbed patients six weeks of thanking anyone and everyone for any good deeds done to them or for them!  He found that to have nearly a 100% cure rate!  C.S. Lewis called praise “inner health made audible!”

     Thanksgiving reminds us to have a PASSION about our Thanksgiving.  C.S. Lewis, in his book Reflections on the Psalms, writes “The world rings with praise-lovers praising their misses…readers their favorite authors or poets, walkers praising the countryside, players their favorite games, praise of weather, actors, cars, colleges, countries, children, rare stamps, even politicians and teachers! Praise almost seems inner health made audible.  Men praise what they value, and urge us to do so also.  ‘Isn’t she lovely?’ ‘wasn’t that glorious?’ ‘don’t you think that is magnificent?’  We delight in praise because it not only expresses our delight…it completes it!  We are told in a confession of faith, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever!”  Thanksgiving does just that!  Change your address so that you are “Living in Praise!”


Nov 152020


     Several years ago the New York Herald Tribune told the story of a tragedy involving a Long Island man who began digging his own well, of all days on his birthday!  He had rigged up quite an operation with his shovel, rope, and bucket routine.  He had gotten down some thirty-five feet when his wife called him to come in and get cleaned up for his birthday dinner.  As he began to climb out, the walls caved in and he was buried under tons of dirt.  Was he perhaps cowering underground in an air pocket beside the ladder?  Ambulance and rescue crews, fire departments and derrick operators worked feverishly through the long night digging a nearby well; people roosted in trees and watched through the night.  News crews carried the story.  Periodic cave-ins hampered the rescue effort.  Everyone was wondering what it was like inside that tomb-whether it was an endlessly approaching death or had it already come to that man.  When the breakthrough came, sad to say, he had died.  What a tragedy!  His birthday turned into a burial. 

     When it came to Jesus Christ, the opposite was true-His burial turned into a Birthday on the day Jesus “became the first-begotten from the dead”.  On the very day of his burial his disciples were huddling together, behind locked doors, for fear of the Jews, and the Romans, fearing if they continued on following in Jesus footsteps, soon 11 more crosses would be raised between heaven and earth, on the hill of the skull, and most of their bodies would not end up in a rich man’s tomb, but likely in the fires of the  Valley of Hinnom.  Their fears were not ill-founded, for after all the Romans were known for crucifying so many revolutionary Jews that trees in the Jerusalem area were almost extinct!  But Jesus’ burial, and subsequent rising from the dead, turned his burial into a birthday for the Church.  The book of Acts tells us that it was the risen Christ, and the Church’s faith in the infallible evidence of His resurrection, that turned their world upside down, and caused the gospel message to triumphantly conquer the Roman world from Jerusalem to Rome, and beyond!

     The truth of the matter is that these days the Church spends her time again locked up, behind the four walls of the Church, if not fearing the world, certainly ignoring it, and their ministry to it.  One denominational worker, in the Methodist faith said, “There are 15 churches in my district; 12 could close down, and the communities would not even miss them!”  Believe me the same could be said about Baptists!  Southern Baptists too!  We huddle behind the four walls of our Church “talking about how the Great Commission just cannot be done today!”  willing to make our mandate more relevant to another day, an earlier time.  Our days are the days of the Great Apostasy after all!  Our predicament reminds me of another tragic incident that occurred just off New York City on Long Island.  A crew aboard a heavily loaded scow suddenly sensed that it was taking water and was sinking.  They tried desperately to save it, but it was a losing battle; suddenly the crew noticed some piling thrusting out of the freezing icy waters, they decided to jump overboard, abandoning the sinking merchant vessel.  All through the night they clung for life to the piling and cried out for help toward the blinking lights along the shore for help.  In the morning some early fishermen saw them clinging to the piling, fingers, hands, bodies nearly frozen to death, despairing for life.  In the ensuing rescue the terrible irony of their experience became clear:  all through the freezing night the men had clung to the piling in water that was only four feet deep!  At any moment they could have walked safely to shore!  What an image of our modern Church!  Hemmed in by our past failures; our irrelevancy; our inhibitions and anxieties…we are clinging for dear life in the cold and freezing waters of a modern culture, when right around us is the steps we can take to victory.  Carl F.H. Henry, one of the most brilliant men I have ever had the privilege to meet, and to sit in one of his classes, before he passed away, put it very succinctly.  He said, “So it was with the early disciples who huddled behind locked doors for fear of the outside world.  The risen Lord appeared to them, and He knew what power need to be applied and where in their situation.  He not only gave them the Great Commission-He breathed the Holy Spirit of power upon them, and He transformed his burial into their birthday!  We live with slammed doors, shut doors, sealed doors, and we need nothing so much but to hear the voice of Him who calls…’I am He that liveth, and was dead…I…have the keys of hell and death’ (Rev. 1:18)” (New Strides of Faith p. 106). 

     That key is Prayer.  Albert Einstein was fascinated by the power and paradox of prayer.  So was C.S. Lewis. On one occasion Lewis responded to an objection about prayer by Kurt Vonnegut.  The objection went something like this:  “I don’t think it all likely that God requires the ill-informed (and contradictory), advice of us humans to run the world.  If He is all-wise, as it is said He is, doesn’t He know already what is best?  And if He is all-good won’t He do it whether we pray or not?”  In reply, Lewis said that you could use the same argument against any human activity, not just prayer.  “Why wash your hands? If God intends them to be clean, they’ll come clean without your washing them…Why ask for salt?  Why put on your boots?  Why do anything?”  God could have arranged things so that our bodies nourished themselves miraculously without food, knowledge entered our brains without studying, and umbrellas magically appeared to protect us from rainstorms.  But God chose a different way of governing the world.  He chose a partnership which also relies on human agency and choice.  Our involvement and prayers help change what happens.  He says so in His word.  Lewis borrowed a term from Blaise Paschal to describe what happens when we pray, and God answers by His power.  He called that the “dignity of causality”.  We partner with God in causing things to come to pass!  Carl F.H. Henry says, that kind of activity of prayer, and enduement of the Holy Spirit, can “change our vexing burden into a blessed victory!”  Oh how we need to join Jesus in the Ministry of Prayer.  Remember “without Him we can’t!  Without us-He won’t!”   Pray-Pray-Pray!


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Nov 082020


     Tri Valley Baptist Church has completed its first twenty five years of ministry.  Over the years we have had many men of God lead us in the ministry of winning our community to Christ.  I believe it has been the measure of every Pastor to lead this congregation in MAKING DISCIPLES (Winning the Lost); MARKING DISCIPLES (Getting them to join the Church and giving public testimony to being a new creation, dying to the old man, rising to walk in newness of life, and by the baptism of the Spirit being placed in the body of Christ the Church);MATURING DISCIPLES (the goal of all the preaching and teaching ministries of the Church) and probably the number one sign of maturity in Christ is following in the next step of MULTIPLYING DISCIPLES (every mature believer should be involved in sharing his faith and winning others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and teaching their converts to do the same).  It all seems so simple when summarized that way…but somewhere-somehow-the process has broken down.  We are losing ground-FAST!  There must be some changes made in our methods.  They tell us that to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of INSANITY!  Somehow we need to grow wiser about ministry to our ever-changing world.

     Having said that I feel like Parsifal, a young lad in Richard Wagner’s play of the same name.  It seems that Parsifal’s father had been an honorable knight who joined other knights in the mission of finding the Holy Grail.  He had been killed in the pursuit.  His mother kept the fate of Parsifal’s father from him, and forbid him to even own or use a sword.  The drama is the story about how Parsifal discovers who he is; who his father was; what his father’s mission was; and he finally, and successfully follows in his father’s dream.  Wagner’s characterization of Parsifal is “a good man growing slowly wise”.  That was his key to success.  Perhaps it is our key too.  We need wisdom from on high to understand and love our community.  Our world has changed.  Old techniques.  Old cliches.  Old methods that used to work are quickly rejected by today’s post-Christian culture.  What are we to do?  One of my favorite authors, even still today, is Francis Schaeffer.  His book True Spirituality is one of the most important books ever written on the Christian life.  Another of his books, The Church At the End of the Twentieth Century, is extremely pertinent today as well.  Two conclusions of his book that we need to understand are: (1) We live in a post-Christian world that neither understands nor wants what we have to offer in the Gospel of Christ.  (2)  Most of the world is desperately seeking love, as Johnny Lee said, “in all the wrong places”.  Schaeffer stated that even though the world will change, (and he hit the nail on the head speaking very prophetically) the key to reaching them will not change.  It is still the “love of Christ” fleshed out in his disciples that will be the magnet that will continue to draw the lost to the Christ and His Cross. Jesus words, “If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto myself” (John 121:32) is still true today.  How long will it take us to learn that truth?

     Leaving the winning of the world in the hands of an imperfect Church was a risk.  C.S. Lewis wrote, “God seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to His creatures.  He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly (is that a word?) what He could do perfectly and in the twinkling of an eye”.  There is no greater illustration of that principle than fact that Jesus has delegated to His Church the task of winning the world before He comes back.  How do we do it?  Jesus is our PATTERN.  We are to emulate Him.  Helmut Thielicke describes the ministry of Jesus in these words, “What tremendous pressures there must have been within Him to drive Him to hectic, nervous, explosive activity!  He sees…as no one else sees, with an infinite and awful nearness, the agony of dying man, the anguish of the wounded conscience, injustice, dread, terror and beastliness.  He sees and hears all of this with the heart of a Savior…must not this fill his every waking hour and rob Him of sleep at night?  Must He not begin to set the fire burning, to win people, to work out strategic plans to evangelize the world, to work, work, furiously work, unceasingly, unrestingly, before the night comes when no man can work?  That’s what we would imagine the earthly life of the Son of God to be like, if we were to think of Him in human terms.  But how utterly different was the actual life of Jesus!  Though the burden of the whole world lay heavy on His shoulders-though Corinth, Ephesus, Athens, and whole continents, with all their desperate need, were desperately near to His heart, though suffering and sinning were going on in chamber, street corner, castle, and slums, seen only by the Son of God-though this immeasurable misery and wretchedness cried out aloud for a physician, he has time to stop and talk to the individual…By being obedient in His little corner of the highly provincial precincts of Nazareth and Bethlehem he allows Himself to be fitted into the great mosaic whose master is God.  And that is why He has time for persons; (to love them individually) for all time is in the hands of the Father.  That is why peace and not unrest go out from Him.  For God’s faithfulness already spans the world like a rainbow: He does not need to build it; He only needs to walk beneath it” (The Waiting Father).  So, do we.  Jesus encountered people individually.  He loved them.  Sometimes they responded to that love and choose to invite Him into their life, and ended up following Him.   Other times they walked away-though the Bible says grieved, for rejecting Him who the depths of our souls desire, creates a greater vacuum inside than before we encounter Him.  We must follow His pattern. 

     But Jesus is also our PRESENCE AND POWER.  Trying to do our mandate and mission in our own power will only end in frustration and failure.  Frederick Buechner describes how he learned this lesson in Telling Secrets“Love you neighbor as yourself is part of the great commandment.  The other way to say it is, Love yourself as your neighbor.  Love yourself not in some ego-centric, self-serving sense but love yourself the way you would love your neighbor, nourishing yourself, trying to understand yourself, comfort and strengthen yourself.  Ministers in particular, people in the caring professions in general, are famous for neglecting themselves with the result that they are apt to become in their own way as helpless and crippled as the people they are trying to care for and thus are no longer selves who can be of much use to anybody.  If your daughter is struggling for life in a raging torrent, you do not save her by jumping into the torrent with her, which only leads to the both of you drowning together.  Instead you keep your feet on the dry bank-you maintain as best you can your own inner peace, the best and strongest of who you are-and from that solid ground reach out your rescuing hand…Take care of yourself so you can take care of them.  A bleeding heart is of no help to anybody if it bleeds to death!”  Beuchner was speaking autobiographically here.  His own daughter was drowning in the torrent of anorexia.  He tried to help her but was losing the battle because her battle consumed him.  She finally got help in a clinic three thousand miles away from him.  He was not present at all to protect her by manipulating events on her behalf.  The people who were there-the Doctors, nurses, social workers, and even a judge who hospitalized her against her will.  They all loved her with a love that held her accountable for choosing her own healing-something her father could not do.  Buechner concluded, “Those men and women were not haggard, dithering, lovesick as I was.  They were realistic, tough, conscientious, and in those ways, though they would never have put it in such terms themselves, loved her in a sense that I believe was closer to what Jesus meant by love than what I had been doing”. 

     Philip Yancey says, “Jesus healed everyone who asked Him too, but not everyone He met.  He had the amazing rare capacity to let people choose their own pain.  He exposed Judas to love, but did not try to prevent his evil deed; He denounced the Pharisees without trying to coerce them to His point of view.  He answered a wealthy man’s question with uncompromising words and let him walk away.  Mark adds the words about that incident “Jesus looked on him and loved Him” (Mk. 10:21).  But he still walked away!  And Jesus let him!  In short, Jesus showed incredible respect for human freedom.  He had no compulsion to convert the entire world in His lifetime or cure people unready to be cured.  He encountered them and called them to Himself in love.  If they did not have the desire to respond love to love, He let them turn away”.  That will still work today.  Jesus is still the epitome of relevance.  So is His cross.  Charles Swindoll, in Come Before Winter, quotes George Mcloud with words still very relevant to us-“It is we who have hauled the cross out of sight.  It is we who have left the impression it belongs in the cloistered halls of a seminary, or beneath the soft shadows of stained glass between marble statues.  I am simply arguing that the cross be raised again in the center of the marketplace, as well as on top of the Church steeple.  Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on a town garbage heap; at a cross road so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek…and at the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble, BECAUSE THAT IS WHERE HE DIED, AND THAT IS WHAT HE DIED ABOUT.  THAT IS WHERE THE CHURCH OUGHT TO BE, AND WHAT THE CHURCH PEOPLE OUGHT TO BE ABOUT!”   His way still works…even twenty years later.  But it has to be fleshed-out by real-life Christians.  Any takers?

“Encountering a Living Presence”

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Nov 012020

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Encountering a Living Presence”

     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 had entered the room.  A man had come quietly in upon the same errand as myself to have his hair cut and sat in the chair next to me.  Every word that the man uttered, though it was not in the least bit didactic, showed a personal interest in the man who was serving him.  And before I got through with what was being done to me I was aware I had attended an evangelistic service, because D.L Moody was in that chair.  I purposely lingered in the room after he had left and noted the singular affect that his visit had brought upon the barber shop.  They talked in undertones.  They did not know his name, but they knew something had elevated their thoughts, and I felt that I left that place as I should have left a place of worship”… (John MacArthur, Matthew, p.236).  That is Christian Influence!  Do you and I carry a Living Presence of our Loving Lord’s Personality with us?  The great Methodist preacher E. Stanley Jones says that “the number one problem of the modern Church today is irrelevancy!”  We are not impacting lives as we should!  The dynamic presence of our living Lord is notably absent from our lives!  People see our lives…but there is nothing out of the ordinary to turn their heads.  As Christians we must not settle for that.  We need to walk in such a communion with our Lord that our lives turn heads and hearts for Him.  Someone has written:









Edgar Guest has another poem entitled “The Living Sermon”

He writes:

I’d rather see a sermon

than hear one any day

I’d rather you would walk with me

than merely tell the way

The eye’s a better pupil

and more willing than the ear.

Fine counsel is confusing

but example is always clear

The best of all the preachers

are men who live their creeds

For to see good put into action

is what everybody needs

The lecture you deliver

may be very wise and true

but I’d rather get my lesson

by observing what you do!

Eileen Guder chides Christians for not living passionate spiritual lives.  She writes:  “Live a bland life.  Eat bland food.  Avoid an ulcer.  Drink no coffee, tea, or stimulants in the name of health!  Go to bed early.  Avoid all night life!  Avoid controversy.  Never offend anyone!  Mind your own business.  Never get involved in anybody’s problems.  Save all your money for the future, never splurge on anything….and you can still break your neck getting out of the bathtub…and it serves you right!  Living a humdrum life never impacts anyone!  Fear not your life will come to an end!  Fear it never had a beginning!” 

Henry Clay Morrison, founder of Asbury Seminary in Kentucky, tells how he was out plowing in the field when a Methodist Circuit Riding preacher came by.  The preacher had such a powerful presence about him that he was overwhelmed with conviction for his sin.  He dropped to his knees and surrendered to Christ as his Savior.  We may not have that kind of presence emanating from us, but we MUST HAVE A PRESENCE THAT IMPACTS LIVES OR WE ARE FAILING OUR LORD! 

In his book Filled With the Spirit, Richard Ellsworth Day makes this perceptive observation:  “It would be no surprise, if a study of secret causes were undertaken, to find that every golden era in human history proceeds from the devotion and righteous passion of some single individual.  This does not set aside the sovereignty of God; it simply indicates the instrument through which He uniformly works.  There are no bona fide mass movements; it just looks that way!  At the center of the column there is always one man who knows His God, and knows where he is going!”  Ask God to make you and I those individuals!  Those who are living with an encountering Presence!