GDD-Grave Digging Diploma

Where I grew up, when someone died, older men would simply take off work and younger men would skip a day of school to dig the grave.  It was my privilege to help dig several graves.  Almost all of them were for people I knew.

Grave digging starts our relatively easy.  Someone with some know-how and experience marks out the rectangular shape of the grave on the surface in the exact spot where it should be.  Then you go to work removing the dirt with a spade.  You are on the top of the ground in the beginning, so you have plenty of room to work.  Tossing your shovels full of dirt into their designated place away from the grave is no problem. 

The deeper you go, however, the less room you have to move about, and the further and higher you have to throw the dirt.  Since you are now throwing that dirt up and out, you wind up with some of it down your collar.  It is sweaty, dirty, exhausting work, and there is only room for one digger at a time in a grave.

Care had to be taken to maintain the straightness of the sides and ends of the grave and to keep the dimensions consistent from top to the bottom.  Long levels would be pressed against the sides until the bubbles were plumb.  Trimming was done with a broad-axe, the handle of which was curved to one side so you could gently “slice” dirt from the vertical walls without skinning your knuckles too badly.  The floor had to be absolutely level and clean and cleared of all loose dirt.  And yes, a grave (at least in those days) had to be 6 feet deep at its shallowest end.

Regardless of how well the work is done, you still end up with a hole, into which you are going to place a dead body, and you cannot help but consider that someday, someone else will dig such a hole for you.  Standing in a finished grave will give you a view of your mortality unlike any other experience.  I highly recommend it.

Though Jesus’ grave was very different, being essentially a small room hewn out of rock, it was still the same thing, but for one very important difference.  He came out of his grave with a glorified, eternal body on the 3rd day.  All the graves we dug still hold the moldering remains of those lowered into them.

But even they won’t stay there forever.  The one who rose on the 3rd day also said that he will return and call all who are in the graves up and out of them to face the judgment; some to everlasting life, and others to everlasting condemnation (John 5:28-29).

A grave is sobering, but thanks to Jesus, it is not depressing.  In fact, the sure hope of a resurrection to life transforms the grave into a step closer to glory, and total victory over death.

So you can see why I now regard my “GDD” so highly.  Wouldn’t you?       

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A Sobering (Spiritually Strengthening?) Story

Andrew Connally (as given by his wife, Claudene, in her book, I Walked By His Side, pp.103ff) told of a heart-touching moment, when he stood near Lake Nyasa (Africa) in the midst of “The graves of Bandawe.”

             Here were some twenty three missionaries who left Scotland in the 1870’s with a burning desire to establish the Church of Scotland in the hearts of the natives of Nyasaland.  Most were in their early twenties, whose love and devotion for lost, struggling souls brought them excitedly to the dark, uncivilized regions of Africa.  They surely knew they faced a gigantic challenge—undeveloped terrain; multiple diseases such as malaria, Blackwater fever, tropical sores, etc.; wild animals such as lions, elephants, baboons, snakes, etc.; communication with loved ones would largely be lost.  There would be language barriers, cultural conflicts, tribal laws to learn, daily demands, dangers and disappointments galore.

As Brother Connally stood in the midst of the graveyard, two things captured his thoughts: 1. The oldest to die was 33, and one marker had on it the single word, “Baby.” 2. Not one of them had returned to die in their homeland!

Andrew raised some questions: “What spark of fire was kindled in the breast of these souls that led them to such sacrifices that cannot be rekindled in us today?  Why would they leave all they held dear to spend and be sent in their devotion to their cause?  What type of love did they have for their fellowman that we cannot have today?  What visions of tomorrow made the trials of today so easy to bear?  And, O Lord, what did they have that I lack, and what were they that I am not?  Remember that Jesus once said that “the sons of this world are for their own generation wiser than the sons of light” (Luke 16:18).

Have you been complaining lately about “hard times?”  Where have you gone, and what have you done to make Jesus known to someone?


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God's Hospital...The Church

Almost everyone I know has spent some time in a hospital and for a variety of problems.  Once we have been diagnosed with something, we agree to be admitted to the care of that institution.  There are doctors, nurses, medications, and health equipment to aid our needs.  And even though it greatly affects our routine and our lives, we want it fixed.  We then accept the care and treatment in the desire to get well.  At the same time we long for our cure and our discharge.  We want to be "cured of what ails us" despite what it costs.

There are some parallels to a hospital stay to our time as Christians:

1.  We are admitted into God's hospital by becoming members of         Christ's church through baptism because we are "sick with sin".        It's the only place where there is a cure.

2.  The GREAT PHYSICIAN (Matt 9:12) has a rehabilitation plan for       our spiritual health.  Only He can remove the thing that is killing         us....SIN!

3.  He furnishes us a "get well" and "stay well" program prescribed by the scriptures.

4.  We benefit from others in this spiritual hospital (the church) with the same symptoms and weaknesses.  They too are seeking relief.

5.  And finally, we should be longing for our discharge.  "O death,        Where is your sting? (Hos 13:14). 

6.  And there's no  out-of-pocket expense to us because JESUS PAID IT ALL!! 

We are all in need of God's hospitalization, Christ's Church.  So take advantage while there's still time.  SIN IS TERMINAL!  

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 6:23)


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New Education Quarter

I would like to thank all the teachers, helpers and cooridnators who have served during the winter quarter (January-April). 

Our education program is the ministry that requires the most volunteers (of at least 40) and functions year round.    With it we train the young and prepare them to receive the gospel when they are old enough; we strengthen Christian families with our youth and family teaching ministry; and provide solid Bible teaching in order to build and maintain the faith our adult members, not to mention the many visitors who attend out Sunday and Wednesday classes.

The new quarter begins next Sunday and I commend these teachers and helpers who are coming aboard replacing other workers who are getting a well deserved rest.  I encourage everyone to make Bible study and attendance at class a priority in our busy schedule starting next Sunday (if you’ve not already done so). 

No other activity will bless you and your family in more ways than regular instruction from God’s Word.

“For everything that has been written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide, we might have hope.”  Romans 15:4


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What Is Really Real?

Metaphysics – “1. The branch of philosophy that investigates principles of reality transcending those of any particular science, traditionally including cosmology and ontology  2. All speculative philosophy” – From the Funk & Wagnall’s Standard Desk Dictionary

Does it seem odd to you that the metaphysical is relegated simply to the realm of philosophy, even speculative philosophy?

I ask this because the metaphysical, by definition, includes your consciousness, spirit, soul, will, thoughts, emotions, intentions, impressions, memories, and more.  The metaphysical you, is the real you. You are a complex composite of such things as what you value, your experiences, your aspirations and even your doubts. The actual reality of your life, and all that makes it worth living, is of the metaphysical.  I believe the metaphysical, is actually the spiritual aspect of life, in juxtaposition to the physical.

Your body is not metaphysical, but physical.  It is also not you, but is essentially a vehicle you use to move about in this world.  Like other vehicles, human bodies range from those in showroom condition, to those ready for the junkyard; but no one gauges a person’s worth by the condition of their vehicle.

The “metaphysical”, spiritual you, is impossible to show anyone else in the literal sense.  No matter how deeply you may care for someone, there is no way for you to lay that part of your being out on a table, as it were, so that everyone could see it, touch it, smell it’s aroma or otherwise sense it physically and exclaim, “Why yes, their love is real; there it is on the table”.  Yet to you, there is nothing more real than the impact your love for another has on your soul.

Even the shallowest of ponderings will reveal to us that there is nothing more real to us, and nothing more important to us that these things which exist completely outside the realm of the physical world.

Perhaps this is why the Lord of both heaven and earth has told us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”, (Matthew 6:19-21).

You are investing your heart in spiritual things already when you do what is right by your family, friends and even strangers.  You understand the value of “good”, even if you’ve never considered that “good” transcends the physical.  There is no “good” in the physical world, only in the spiritual.  There also is no eternal here, but only in those things which are spiritual.  Hence, Jesus’ admonition.


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Who Works in a Baptism?

This has become a fairly popular question due to modern denominational teachings.  The question is answered in several passages and in several ways.

First we see it in the use of the passive voice.  Active voice in NT Greek as well as in English means that the subject does something.  Passive voice, however, means that something is being done to the subject, with the subject being of course, passive.

 In Acts 2:38, for example, Peter tells the crowd to repent using the active voice, but then tells them to be baptized using the passive voice.  This means that folks were to do the work of repenting themselves, but they were to allow someone else to baptize them.  Passive voice is also used in 2:41 when Luke writes that “those who had received his word were baptized”.  Of course none were instructed to baptize themselves.

Secondly, in texts describing baptisms, we see those who work at baptizing while those being baptized submit passively.  What better example of this than our Lord Jesus when he comes to John to be baptized (Matthew 3:13-15).  John even reasons that he should be baptized by Jesus, but Jesus insists that John must baptize him in order to fulfill all righteousness.  Even Jesus did not baptize himself.

Thirdly, Paul wrote that in baptism, we are “baptized into Christ”, “baptized into his death”, “buried with Christ” and “raised….. to walk in newness of life”, (Romans 6:3-4).

There is no mistaking the connection between baptism and Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.  We should take note in all of this that Jesus did not crucify himself; someone else did that.  Jesus did not bury himself; someone else did that, and Jesus not raise himself; someone else did that.

In submitting to baptism, we follow the example Jesus set for us.  We allow someone else to lower us into the water and at the same time allow God to crucify our old self with its sin (Romans 6:6).  We submit to this burial in the water, and to being raised from it just as Jesus was buried by friends and raised by his Father.  You just can’t miss the profound and poetic beauty of it all.

Finally, we see that the real work is done by God, through our faith in him:

“…..and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead”,  Colossians 2:11-12

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Expect Crazy

Jesus healed the sick, made the lame walk, gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and enabled the mute to speak.  Thousands were fed by this man who carried no stores of food.  He even raised the dead.  What right-thinking being would not want such a beneficial man to live and walk among those they loved?

But he was called “ruler of demons” by his enemies; those who had invested themselves in this world.  So hated, that they defied logic and reason by hiring liars to falsely testify against him.  So it remains today, that those who have pushed God from their minds behave in ways that defy logic and reason. 

Some of our countrymen want to embrace socialism in spite of the fact that many of our recent enemies were German national socialists (Nazis) and Russian socialists (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) whose policies resulted in the deaths of literally millions of people.  Do they also not see the catastrophe that has unfolded before their eyes in Venezuela due to socialism?

Many claim they want to save children by outlawing guns, but then they militantly fight for the freedom to kill children while in the wombs of their mothers.

God-given sexuality is rejected in favor of all imaginable promiscuity.  The government, however, is still expected to pay for abortions and find a cure for AIDS.

Consider the irony that in spite of the sexual saturation of our culture, we see the incredulous refusal to acknowledge the differences between men and women.

Some decry racism & sexism but vilify all white males.  What?  Yes, but they are the same ones who condemn capitalism as they sip Starbucks while glued to their laptops.

“Fossil fuels are evil”, say those who drive around in their SUVs.

Crazy?  Illogical?  Unreasonable?  Yes, yes and yes.  But don’t be surprised.  This is the world.  How silly of us to expect folks still invested in this world to be logical and reasonable when the only perfect man to live here was crucified by popular vote.

The answer?  First, stay faithful to Jesus and the truth he has shown us.  Don’t cave to the fickle winds of worldly opinion.  Secondly, love those who have caved.  Pray that they will see the logical end of their futile path, and that you will be there for them when they do.


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Are You an "Innkeeper-Type Person?"

Oft told is Christ’s story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).  Careful attention and fitting applications have been given to: 1. The robbers, who attacked, beat, stripped his clothing, and left the man “half dead.”  They demonstrate The Iron Rule-”Might makes right.”  It is the selfish, shameful, stronger-than you, bullying, bad guy lifestyle; 2. The priest and Levite, each walking past the poor soul, represent The Silver Rule-”Do unto others as they do unto you.”  The reasoning; I did not get him into that mess, nor do I feel obligated to get him out of his pains, perils and problems; 3. The Good Samaritan represents The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (cf. Matt.7:12).  The Samaritan was prepared, cared, reached out, relieved, treated and transported that suffering soul to a peaceful place for further blessings and benefits. 

The personality that we have tended to over look is the Innkeeper!  If we were to make full application for this “journey through life,” the Innkeeper’s past is prominent, precious, special and significant!  The deeds by the Good Samaritan would be akin to the Teacher or Preacher who cleans up yesterday’s deeds or disaster by applying the Good News, the Gospel, building belief, then baptizing one into Christ to wash away any sins causing any pains or anxiety (Read Mark 16:15f; Acts 2:38; 8:36-39; Gal. 3:26f).  One would then be in the Inn (or the church-1 Corinthians: 12:13) for further care and recovery.  The Innkeeper would be like a skilled nurse, who supplies daily care and attention for the further recovery to take on the divine nature (Note 1 Peter 1:22-2:2; 2 Peter 1:3-4).  Such care may be for the “weak”, unstable soul, who needs “support”; or the “fainthearted” (little soul who is unable to handle challenging choices), who will need “encouragement”; or the “disorderly disciple” (like Israelite rebels, who murmured, doubted, repeatedly caused trouble for Moses, ever talking about returning to Egypt-the old ways), who need “admonition,” warnings and discipline—cf. 1 Thess. 5:14-16).

The Innkeeper had the challenging duty of physically strengthening an unstable soul.  In the church the challenge is to morally and spiritually strengthen souls, who are recovering from multiple wicked ways.  Every congregation is an Inn with souls struggling to take on the divine nature.  They desperately need help for godly growth.  Are You a good “Innkeeper?”


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A Reason To Sing

No matter what Church people attend, there is usually a time set aside to worship and within the worship, there is a time to sing. We, in the Church of Christ, are especially careful about how we sing together. We do not use musical instruments or dance, but I think we all know that. My question is not how do we sing together but why do we sing together? What is so important about us singing together as Christians? There are many passages with answers to this question, but I want us to focus on one passage.

Paul writes in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Paul tells us that God wants us to sing together! Singing together is part of the process for Christ’s Word to dwell within us. We can see that when we sing together, we build each other up and are showing thankfulness to God, not as one child but as many children united as one. We are not just making noise with our mouths when we sing together in thankfulness to Him, our singing is a pure form of worship that comes from our collective hearts. What a joy that must be for God to see His children not only singing to Him but singing to Him together as one!


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Foundation for the Future

There are many things required when building a foundation in the Lord. One of them, I’m sure we all will agree, is consistently reading and studying our bibles. It is God’s Word given to us so that we may learn about our Creator, teach the Good News and build our faith. The other day, I was told it is good to find a version I enjoy reading.

Later on, this idea re-surfaced when thinking about my daughter’s spiritual development. When my wife and I read them Bible stories, we choose books with vibrant pictures and few words. The girls (ages 2 and 8 months) greatly enjoy their Bibles now, but what about when they are older? When they read their own “adult” Bibles, will they enjoy them? When they know right from wrong and can think logically, will my girls want to make God’s Word a part of their life’s foundation?

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Do you remember what you were taught growing up? I do, and everyone I’ve asked that question to remembers as well. I can logically conclude, therefore, that what I teach my children now will be with them for the rest of their lives. When their Bibles no longer contain pictures, will we still enjoy reading God’s Word together? I hope so. I hope they will continue to experience the joy that comes with studying the Bible and building a foundation in Christ for life. After all, children are building today the foundation for the church tomorrow. 

2 Timothy 3:14-17 “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”



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