The God of Small Things

Do you ever find yourself wanting to ask God for something but believe that it is too small or insignificant to “bother” him about? I know I do.

But I’ve been a dad long enough to know how pleased I am when one of my children asks for my input about anything in their lives; even when they think they need to apologize about its seeming insignificance.

Our sun is approximately 864,938 miles in diameter (!), but is made up mostly of hydrogen atoms fusing two by two into helium. So how small is an atom? An atom is about a million times smaller than the thickest human hair.

These tiny atoms splitting are what makes our great sun what it is. So from the tiniest electron, to the largest red hyper-giant, God remains the Almighty mover & shaker.

Jesus made this very point when he asked, “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered”, Matthew’s gospel 10:29-30.

He’s waiting to hear from you, little sparrow, about the hairs on your head. Why not let him decide how important your concerns are? Just because you and I are small, and so often believe our troubles are too small to take to him, doesn’t mean that’s how he sees it. Like Isaiah said, his ways are not our ways.

Remember that Jesus is also the one who said, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much”, Luke’s gospel 16:10. It seems obvious that God cares about the little things.

I would hate to think that I missed out on a conversation with one of my children because they thought their troubles too insignificant. Does it make sense that this fact makes me believe that God also wants to hear from us about our small things?

Besides, if what I take to him is smaller than I should concern myself with, asking him about it will open an opportunity for him to lead me to something bigger & better.

Never pass up an opportunity to take your small stuff to the one who takes care to split atoms and count hairs.

Thank God and Take Courage

Even though Paul was a prisoner, had been in a shipwreck, and had been bitten by a snake, when he saw those brethren from the Market of Appius and The Three Taverns “he thanked God and took courage” (Acts 28:15). The Choctaw congregation at the service of the Lord’s Day, November 3, was able to greet Mary and Geoffrey Kirima (whom we support to share the Gospel in Kenya), and to hear brother Jean-T-Elmera preach the Word, while giving a report of his work with us in Haiti. At the evening service, hearts were surely stirred to hear Mike Mazzalongo share his insights and blessings related to 40 years of preaching the Word. The edifying events of that Lord’s Day have stimulated some other heartening thoughts.

Have you ever mediated and calculated how many placed the Gospel has bene taught and preached by members of the Choctaw congregation? Here are the known places: Montreal (Canada); Guadeloupe; Switzerland; Haiti; Jerusalem; Nigeria; Capetown (S. Africa) ; Bangkok (Thailand); Madras & Bombay (India); Philippines; El Salvador; Trinidad (Tabago); Russia; Ukraine; plus many more places in over 32 states in the US! Add to this the preaching over the internet by the work of Mike Mazzalongo and Hal Gatewood through “BibleTalk,” then only the Lord knows all the places and people who have heard the Word preached by members of the Choctaw congregation!

Paul surely gave the proper two fold response for such outreach efforts by the brethren. 1. Paul did “thank God!” To God be the glory for great things He has done! (note John 15:5). Would you slip off somewhere and thank God for His grace and goodness? 2. Paul took “courage”! The noun and verb form of the Greek term Paul used (tharsos; tharseo) is defined as “be of good cheer, spoken by way of encouragement; be confident, be courageous; don’t be afraid.”(1) Note carefully that definition. Are You thinking and living like that? Let that splendid spirit lead you forward in the Lord’s service. Without fear and with confidence, be od “good cheer” and “be encouraged!” Daringly be a devout disciple for our Father in heaven! Why? Because there are so many other places and people who need to hear and heed the glorious Gospel of Jesus the Lord!

(1) Cf. Edward Robinson, A Greek and English Lexicon of the New Testament, p.330; and William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gringrinch, A Greek and English Lexicon of the New Testament, p.352

Is It OK to Observe Halloween?

It is believed that most of the ideas behind the night we now call “Halloween” originated with the Celtic religion of Druidism which flourished for around 300-350 years between the second centuries BC and AD.

For the Druids, this night meant that the “lighter” part of the year was coming to an end and the “darker” part was beginning. They further believed that on this night the veil between the living and the dead was its thinnest and that Samuin, lord of the dead, would call forth evil spirits to do mischief. In response to this belief, bonfires would be lit and some would dress themselves with masks and/or paint, apparently all in the hope of warding off said spirits.

Through the years, such ideas have been intermingled with other fall or harvest festivals from various cultures until we come down to what we have today. What does Halloween night mean for most of us in America? Simply put, it’s the fun kind of “scary stuff” we enjoy. It’s kids in costumes mooching candy, then going on a hayride and afterwards having popcorn balls and smores. Halloween means jack o’lanterns, fake spider webs and bobbing for apples at parties decorated with orange and black.

Sure, there are a few who see Halloween as a special night to dabble in the occult, but no one I know either does or promotes that. That kind of thing just never even comes to mind for most of us.

Two questions seem important to me to ask here. First, “Is this, holiday, intrinsically evil?”. In my experience, it is not. Even the practices of the Druids were intended to avoid contact with evil. I’d promote that, how about you? My second question would be, “Does Halloween provide any opportunity to do good?”.

Again, according to my experience, it certainly does. Year after year I see young families enjoying each others’ company as they go from house to house with their costumed children who squeal with innocent delight at the haul of goodies happy homeowners dole out. I’m fifty-four, but I still remember how much fun it was when my older brother and sister took me trick-or-treating!

Sometimes we simply gather in Christian fellowship around our own bonfires, toasting marshmallows and deepening relationships, warming ourselves both inside and out in the cool night air of early fall.

Now if your view of Halloween is different from someone else’s, don’t despair. Paul said in Romans chapter fourteen that each of us has the freedom in Christ to observe such days according to our own opinions:

One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike.

Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the

day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he

gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and

gives thanks to God. Romans 14:5-6

So be at peace with others regardless of how you see the day, and give thanks to God for it!

Who is Your god?

The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’”, Genesis 3:4-5

The above reveals for us the most profound struggle of our own existence; which is our desire to govern ourselves as though we are our own god.

Intellectually, it makes no sense. We know that we did not create ourselves and so we have no idea what the “owner’s manual” would say if we had one. We are left with pure speculation as to how to help ourselves.

Emotionally, it makes no sense. Insecurity dominates our thoughts when we try to make ourselves, the highest authority for ourselves. Even as we grasp for control, we know it is out of our reach.

Spiritually, it makes no sense. We have absolutely no control or influence over anything in the spiritual realm, and without God, are totally ignorant of even our own spirit.

The only way being our own god makes any sense at all is through the eyes of our own flesh. We become like undisciplined and rebellious adolescents when our parents have left the house. We revel in making our own rules and living by whatever makes us happy in the moment. And like such an inexperienced and selfish youth, we wind up trashing our own house, being miserable, insecure, in chaos and without the means or even an idea of the direction out of it.

Self-help books are pitiful excuses for real solutions. Even if we realize our need to “get it together”, doing better on our own is impossible. All we can hope for without submitting to the true and living God is to follow some wayward path that might at least make it look like we have it all together. But we won’t. Not without God.

Solomon was right when he concluded, “Fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil”, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Living Words

Most people who have listened to sermons have heard the Bible called, at one time or another, the “Living Word.” Have you ever wondered what that means? Surely it does not mean that your Bible comes to life and goes from being an inanimate object to an animate object that lives, breathes and needs nourishment. It can be a difficult concept to grasp that words live. So, how can we better understand this statement?

John 1:1-5 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

In John 1:14, we are told that the Word became flesh. This Word was and is Jesus our Christ. When we learn that, John 1:1-5 becomes much clearer. Replace “Word” with “Jesus.”

Furthermore, Romans 8:10 tells us that Christ lives in us, and then Hebrews 4:12 says that the Word of God is living and active. Think about that! God speaks to us through the Bible, His Word. Yet, contained in the Bible is the story of Jesus from the beginning to the end! The Word prophesied, fulfilled in birth, hung on a cross and resurrected. We carry this story with us in our hands, minds and hearts. The Living Word.

Hey, What's Up Ahead?

Sunday, November 24 2019, has been designated by the shepherds here at Choctaw as “Every Member Present Sunday”. That’s what’s up ahead!

On a given Lord’s day, folks will be absent from our assembly for any number of reasons. Kids get sick, work schedules interfere, vacations come along, and well, you know. It is difficult to get everyone together at the same time; but how neat would it be if we did?

You may recall that we’ve made this effort before with marvelous results; and November 24th is the Sunday before our national day of Thanksgiving. How appropriate is that!?!?

But is this just about numbers?

Think about it. You’re having a family gathering. Is the size of the crowd the point? Duh, of course not. What is important is that everyone belongs, and has a place to fill and a part to play. Any absence of a beloved family member takes away from the gathering. The love we have learned from God compels us to want each one to be there; even the ones that behave like goobers sometimes (of course that’s never you nor me). You get it.

If we want to have all of us here on the same Lord’s Day, or even get close to having the entire congregation together for the same worship assembly, we have to plan. So, mark your calendar! Put a big red circle around November 24th. No, wait, not red, but use either royal blue or purple, since we are the royalty of the kingdom of God who are coming together to honor the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!

Markers ready?

Did I mention that the day to mark is November 24th?

"The End is Near!"......or not

My thanks to the Competitive Enterprise Institute for a compilation of news articles predicting dooms of various types. Below are some of the foreboding conclusions reached by scientists in the recent past that were noted in their piece.

17 November 1967 – The Salt Lake Tribune published an article by George Getze, a writer for the Los Angeles Times, with the headline, “Dire Famine Forecast by ‘75”. Dr. Paul Ehrlich, a Stanford University biologist, cited world population as the problem and called for radical birth control measures to be taken.

April 16th, 1970, – The Boston Globe ran an article with the headline, “Scientist Predicts A New Ice-Age By The 21st Century”. In it, James P. Lodge Jr. of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, warned that pollution would soon obliterate the sun and freshwater rivers would be dried up to create electric power.

July 9th, 1971 – The Washington Post, Times Herald published the findings of Dr. S. I. Rasool of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Columbia University claiming that air pollution would cause a disastrous new ice-age in as little as 50 years. The findings were also presented at the International Study of Man’s Impact on Climate, held that year in Stockholm, Sweden.

December 3rd, 1972 – A letter from Brown University informed president Nixon that a council of 42 scientists from the U.S. & Europe determined that glacial temperatures and food shortages due to shorter growing seasons could soon be expected.

January 29th, 1974 – An article in The Guardian with the headline, “Space Satellites Show New Ice Age Coming Fast”, warned that scientists had indeed examined satellite pictures of weather patterns and concluded that a mini-ice was soon to come.

June 24th, 1974 – A TIME science article reported that since the 1940s, the mean temperature had dropped 2.7°, that the persistence and thickness of the icepack around Iceland and a 12% increase in area covered by ice & snow in the northern hemisphere were all harbingers of a coming ice-age.

Many other such articles were included, but as always, God will have the last word, “While the earth remains, seedtime & harvest, cold & heat, summer & winter, day & night shall not cease”, Genesis 8:22

Salvation

The most important information we could provide is how to be eternally saved from your sins through Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that we are all created in God’s image, but that through our own sins, we have fallen short of his glory and become separated from him. Since the penalty for sin is death, Jesus took on flesh so that he could die in our place, paying that penalty for each of us on the cross.You and I can avail ourselves of his gift of salvation by putting our faith in Jesus as God’s son to save us, turning away from of our sins and allowing someone to baptize us in water. It really is just that simple, and is exactly what Jesus said:

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.
- Mark’s gospel 16:15-16

We see this pattern of the gospel being presented, and those who believe it being immediately baptized in the New Testament book of Acts multiple times. The first instance is in chapter 2. Peter, one of Jesus’ apostles, preaches about Jesus, how he was crucified and buried, but then resurrected by God and made Lord of all (to be read in Acts 2:22-36).

When many in the crowd believe Peter’s preaching, they are pierced to the heart and ask him what they should do (Acts 2:37). Peter answers, telling them to repent and be baptized in Jesus’ name (by Jesus’ authority) for the forgiveness of their sins and that they would receive the gift of God’s Spirit (Acts 2:38).

This pattern is repeated several times in the book of Acts

  • Acts 8:12 – Samarians hear the gospel of Jesus, believe and are baptized
  • Acts 8:13 – Simon the sorcerer hears, believes and is baptized
  • Acts 8:26-39 – an Ethiopian is taught about Jesus believes and is baptized
  • Acts 9:1-19 – Jesus appears to Saul of Tarsus, Saul believes in him and is baptized
  • Acts 10:24-48 – Cornelius and his family hear the gospel and are baptized
  • Acts 16:14-15 – Lydia and her family are baptized after hearing and believing the gospel
  • Acts 16:25-34 – the family of the jailor in Philippi hears the gospel and are baptized

This then, is the simple means for our salvation, that we believe in Jesus and based on that faith, we allow someone to baptize us just as Jesus taught. Jesus’ apostle Paul wrote of baptism:

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
- Letter to the Romans 6:3-4

Jesus died on the cross taking our punishment on himself. Baptism brings us into that death, so that our sins are covered by it. We rise from baptism, just as Jesus rose from death, to walk in the new life God gives us free from our sin. This is how the New Testament teaches us to be saved.

I Am Disappointed!

The “Step Up In September” plea was a genuine, sincere effort by the elders to overcome—”bridge the gap”—between the Sunday morning and Sunday evening —Wednesday evening attendance numbers. The imposed Divine obligation for the elders “to feed the church of the Lord” (Acts 20:28 AS) automatically imposes a Divine obligation for members of the church “to be fed!” Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening have been supplied by the elders for the feeding of EACH MEMBER!

Sickness, travel, and employment may occasionally be “causes” why some members cannot attend on Sunday morning. That is understandable. However, are those “causes” a fitting explanation for the consistent, sizable gap between Sunday morning and Sunday evening—Wednesday evening attendance? Hebrews 10:25-31 is a sobering context about members who “sin-willfully” by “forsaking our assembling together” (Heb. 10:25f). Willful sin is when one is in conflict, or one is contrary, to God’s designed plan, or to Christ’s Covenant teaching. It further states that members so doing are akin to those “who have trodden underfoot the Son of God,” and have “counted the blood of the covenant by which we are sanctified an unholy thing,” and have “done despite unto the Spirit of grace” (v.29). What sad, sick, and sobering charges!

The word “forsake,” which the Spirit gives is from the Greek term, egkataleipo, which means, “to abandon, desert...to leave in straits, leave helpless” (J.H. Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p.166). Have You so responded?

Willful forsaking the assembling is a public sin and calls for a public confession, coupled with the effectual fervent prayer of faithful brethren (James 5:15-20). Do You need to repent—change your mind —about those times when brethren are “assembling together”?

How edifying it would be to see each member Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening together, rejoicing like sheep, who have gathered for “feeding time!”

So brethren consistently assemble that they may “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18).

Sharing is Caring

I am constantly telling my daughter, “Share with your sister.” or “Share with your cousin.” I don’t often hear adults saying that phrase to each other, yet we all make sure to instill the idea of sharing into our children. Why is that? Do we realize exactly what we are doing when we share? Hebrews 13:16 says,

“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

The saying, “Sharing is caring” is based on biblical principles. When we teach our children to share, we are teaching them to willingly sacrifice! When they share with others, they are completing a biblical action and such actions please God. Also, when they share, they often receive a reward as well; it makes them feel good! How great to know that a simple saying we often say without much thought, plants God’s values within our children and, in turn, blesses others who receive what they share.