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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A Happy 90th Birthday

Dayton wrote the poem below 16 years ago in celebration of someone else turning 90, but it now applies to himself and the seven other “90 plussers” of this congregation we want to honor…..

A Happy 90th Birthday!

The Lord has granted you three score and ten,

Then He added another decade and did it again!

Your years have grown up to ninety by God’s grace;

Among the masses of men you’ve had your place!

 

A simple life for you has been lovingly granted—

Good deeds you have done and things you have planted

All blend with the principles you hold in your heart,

Offering goodwill to kith and kin with whom you had a part.

 

Your kind smile and gracious behavior—

The spirit you’ve built as you honored your Savior—

The “little things” that have made you  a good neighbor

Are tributes we salute and memories we savor!

 

So as you cross the threshold of your 90th year,

These gratuitous line we want you to hear;

Your long life well lived leads us to gratefully say,

“We certainly wish for you a Happy 90th Birthday!”

 

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Limitless God

In my daily Bible reading I’m currently in the book of Job, which our gut reaction sometimes is to think of Job as a book on perseverance.  And that is certainly an element of Job and his situation, but if we stay in that camp we completely miss a deeper understanding of the book and a deeper understanding of who God is.

Job is sitting there with 3 of his “friends” (I use the word friend loosely because they really aren’t friendly towards Job and it makes me wonder if they really know anything about Job).  But they try to offer up their own thoughts on who God is and why these catastrophes have fallen to Job.  But Job is the only man in this story that speaks the most wisdom about God.

In chapter 26 Job describes God’s grand power and control of the universe.  He describes things that we as humans can’t even begin to understand, but to God they are so basic. 

“And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him!  Who then can understand the thunder of his power?”  Job 26:14

So many times we want to confine God in a box.  We want to say God should be this way, or God should do this, or this is how God is.  But the truth is, God doesn’t fit in our box.  God is much bigger than any nation, political party, policy decision, human strength/failure, budget, or any other kind of limiting wall we might build.  I think it’s time we destroyed some walls and really let God do what he can and not what we think he should do.

 

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What Has God Done?

You and I had a sin problem that was personal to each of us as individuals.  My sins were my sins, yours were yours, and we were on a fast track to paying for our sins with our souls.

What did God do?  He sent Jesus who would “taste death for everyone” (as Hebrews 2:9 says).  Now I have eternal life through him, and this life is available to everyone who wants it.

But nations still go to war.  Famine still strikes many parts of the world and disease is everywhere.  What has God done about these things?

As God sent Jesus, what if he also sent us great minds to become the statesmen we need to guide governments in the way of peace rather than war?  What if he sent thousands of them to help bring peace among his creation?

What if God sent us great minds to resolve the problems that bring famine; gifted people to stave off the tragedy of hunger by some ingenious work only those outfitted by God could do?

What if God would send us a whole new generation of minds to conquer the diseases that ravage mankind?  After all, he is God.  He could do that, couldn’t he?

What if God did that?  What if they came, but were killed before they were even born?

Jesus came to resolve our greatest problem.  He was killed.  Herod even killed a whole village full of two-year-olds to rid himself of Jesus (see Matthew 2:16).

What if the statesmen, researchers, inventors, entrepreneurs, scientists, counselors and other profoundly helpful humans were sent, but never made it to the daylight of life because they were aborted?

I would say, “May God help us”, but the words ring hollow, thinking that maybe he’s been trying to do just that, and we have rejected him, and life itself.

                                              

 

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Patience

What is Patience? A word extremely common in our every day vocabulary. I thought about how I needed some this morning trying to help get our children around for the day. Then I realized I didn’t even know the meaning. I only know what I THINK the meaning is. So what is the actual definition of patience, what does the Bible say about it, and how can we apply it in our every day lives?

The word “patient” as defined by the Webster’s Online Dictionary: Bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint; steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity.

This definition brings insight to me. Especially, since I thought Patience was just not getting angry at the small things that are not going correct for me that moment. According to the definitions given, bearing pains or trials and being steadfast despite opposition, don’t give us the idea of being patient in a particular moment, but over the course of some time in an individuals life.

Our society tells us rather matter of factly that Patience is a virtue, making it seem that it cannot be taught nor learned. Though Patience is a Fruit of the Spirit as stated in Galatians 5:22. It is one of 9 Fruits of the Spirit that are needed to overcome living a fleshly life. According to Galatians 5:13-6:10, living by the Spirit is a daily task. Why would God bless some with Patience and others without it and then tell us we all need to exercise it?

Applying Patience along with the other Fruits of the Spirit let’s us live in freedom. It allows us to treat our family, our brothers and sisters in Christ, co-workers, and people we pass on the street the way Christ wants us to treat them.  When we live by the Spirit, we will walk with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).

So as we go about our week, let’s put into practice Patience in everything we do. Not just the times we deem it to be needed in our lives. We will be blessed by the Spirit and we will bless those around us when we do.

 

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Could She Be You?

The unnamed, insignificant (?), Hebrew slave girl of Naaman was the central cause of one of the most unusual Spirit supplied stories in the Old Testament.  Here is what we know about her: 1. She retained faith in God, while serving as a slave in the foreign region of Syria; 2. She was confident of God’s power and knew God’s prophet (Elisha) could cleanse a leper (II Kings 5:3,8); 3. She sincerely cared for the welfare of the people who had enslaved her (II Kings 5:2f; Jeremiah 29:7; Romans 12:20f); 4. She did what she could.

Of course, the prominent people in the story are: 1. The Kings of Syria and Israel (II Kings 5:1,6); 2. Naaman, the commander of the Syrian forces, who was a leper (v.1); 3. Elisha, the prophet of God (vv. 3, 8-15); 4. And even Gehazi, the servant of Elisha (vv.20-27).  However, none of those amazing series of acts, attitudes, healing, gift-giving, a leper cleansed, and a healthy man turned into a leper—None of that would have happened had not that insignificant slave girl—a “nobody” in the cultural setting of her day—spread the word about the power of God through His prophet!

How many reading this article might best fit that young girl’s role in this sublime story?  She acted on what she knew, and a “mushrooming,” life-changing, cultural cleansing and even an international string of influences unfolded!!  How do YOU fit into this?  One of the greatest needs of Bible-believing neighbors and friends all around us—who are attending services somewhere-is to properly understand that moment when faith has led someone to the water—that soul-cleansing moment-when by Christ’s covenant “sins are washed away” (Acts 2:38; 22:16).  Atheists, Bible-haters, skeptics are not the general crowd with whom we associate.  Also, if there is any part of the Bible most brethren do truly understand, it is that baptism is a burial in water (Romans 6:3,4; Acts *:36-39), and that submersion moment is when Christ sees fit to cleanse believers from their sins (Mark 16:15; Acts 2:38)—the moment one gets “into Christ” and in His church (Galatians 3:26f; I Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:22f).  You know and have faith in that moment!!

Like Naaman needed to know Elisha, You know what such friends need for that cleansing moment to become eternally related to Christ-at least to begin that journey.  Remember what a most rewarding deed that young slave girl did for Naaman.  Could You be like her, helping someone near you be cleansed—to relate to Christ for eternity?

 

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Naaman's Conversion

If you are familiar at all with Naaman, captain of the Syrian (Aramean) host, you may think first of his miraculous cure from leprosy.  While that cure is truly remarkable, it was merely a change in his flesh, which God can easily affect.  Did you notice, however, the change that was made in his heart?

Naaman arrived at Elisha’s doorstep with a grand assumption of what the prophet would do.  Elisha’s instructions were much less ostentatious, however, and poor Naaman was put off.

Reasoning wisely with their master, Naaman’s servants suggested that he simply comply with Elisha’s directions; to dip himself seven times in the river Jordan.  He did, and his leprosy vanished.  His flesh immediately was a clean as a child’s.

Naaman came out of the shallow waters of the Jordan, a deeply changed man.  He returned to Elisha with his entire entourage and would say the following:

“Behold now, I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel; so please take a present from your servant now…….. If not, please let your servant at least be given two mules’ load of earth; for your servant will no more offer burnt offering nor will he sacrifice to other gods’ but to the Lord.”

“In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter”

Naaman wanted to give something back in gratitude for what he had received.

Naaman wanted to return home with dirt from the land of the God who helped him, so that upon the soil of Israel, he could sacrifice to the God of Israel.

Understanding how wrong any involvement with idolatry would be in light of the true and living God, Naaman asked forgiveness for the places his duties would take him.

Elisha told him, “Go in peace”.  I believe Naaman went home with peace in his heart that day, a peace that he had never before even imagined.  He was a man converted.

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Who Did We Lose in 2018?

70’s rock group Moody Blues blended rock & roll with symphonic orchestrations.  Founding member and lead singer Ray Thomas is now gone.

We will miss the comic antics of Beloved Jerry Van Dyke, Dick Van Dyke’s brother.

Alan Bean & John Young, who both literally walked on the moon, now walk in eternity.

If you can hear “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” in your mind’s juke box, you’re remembering the voice of Dennis Edwards of the Temptations.  Gone.

How about John Mahoney who played the cranky, but beloved dad of Frazier Crane?

Billy Graham was one of the most influential preachers of any recent generation.  He too, is now gone.

Stephen Hawking, who said that God is unnecessary, has now gone on to meet him.

The seemingly unforgettable R. Lee Ermey who first was a Marine Corps drill sergeant and then became famous for playing one in “Full Metal Jacket” is gone.

Aretha Franklin, the queen of soul who blessed us with her God-given voice, gone. 

Paul Allen was a co-founder of Microsoft.  Fabulously wealthy, but very generous, he gave billions to charities in education, wildlife and environmental conservation, the arts, healthcare, community services, and more. 

George and Barbara Bush both left us this year.  Very influential and very beloved in this world, have now gone into the next.

Though the above is just a very short list of some of the more well-known folks who died in 2018, it is good for me to take stock, just as Solomon wrote 3,000 years ago:

“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart”  Ecclesiastes 7:2
      
                                                                                                                   

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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

That’s what the song says, and it is not entirely wrong.  But Christmastime and year-end festivities can often remind us of reasons we have to be sad. 

How does one cope?  Okay, you know some suggestions are coming.  Get ready!

Make contact with loved ones as you are able.  Take them some cookies (even store-bought) if they are close enough.  If not, make a phone call, send a letter or a card.  Touching base with family and friends can do much to help fill the sense of void.

Count your blessings.  Sure, we all have suffered loss or disappointment of one kind or another, but we have also been given much.  Do you have a job, a home, loved ones, health?  We tend to compare our situation to those “above” us who will always have more of whatever it is we think we want.  Perhaps if we looked to those less fortunate, we would see more clearly all the good we have laid at our doorstep, and be provoked to a fair amount of gratitude.  Assessing the good you have in your life is always more encouraging than dwelling on loss.

Talk to God about your sadness.  Jesus’ apostle Paul called the great I AM, the “God of all comfort” (2nd Corinthians 1:3).  There is no earthly explanation for the therapeutic benefit of pouring out your soul to your maker and redeemer.  It always works wonders for me, and I am confident that you will find honest, heart-felt prayer very beneficial as well.  He doesn’t keep holiday hours, but is open ‘round the clock every day.

Confide in a trusted friend.  Burdens are lighter when shared.  You know that.

Serve.  We were made to serve.  Serving gives us a sense of fulfillment that we cannot get in any other way.  Nothing else you can do will parallel Jesus’ example as much as sacrificial service.  Start by looking people in the eye and smiling.  Pay for someone’s lunch, or deliver groceries to someone in need.  Better yet, offer to take an elderly neighbor shopping.  If we look for ways to serve, I am confident God will help us find them.  After all, Jesus said that if people see our good works, they will glorify his Father in heaven.

As a child of God, you have much for which to be thankful, and happy.  Don’t wait for the world to become perfect.  Do what you can to improve it where you are, and you will make a huge dent in any sadness that’s troubling you.

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Power Perfected in Weakness

What does this idea from 2nd Corinthians 12:9 mean?

Maybe it’s like when God promised Abraham and Sarah, a couple waaaay past the age of bearing children, that they would have a son through whom the entire world would be blessed.  But then, as if to prove a point, he waits 25 years more to fulfill this promise so that they don’t have a son together until Abraham is 100 and Sarah is 90.

Or maybe it’s like when God sent Moses to Pharaoh to tell him to release his Hebrew slaves.  Moses was an 80 year old shepherd as well as a fugitive from Egyptian justice, armed with nothing but a staff.  Pharaoh, on the other hand, was the most powerful man in the world, in command of the most powerful army in the world.  No matter. Big deal.  The Hebrews were set free. 

Or could it be that it is like when David, another shepherd, but this time a boy, faced a

9 ½ foot tall giant warrior with a coat of chain mail that weighed over 150 pounds and toting a spear whose head weighed over 18 pounds?  Who’da thought an unknown, ruddy faced shepherd boy with a sling would be the one to take down such a champion?  But to everyone’s surprise, he did.

Do you suppose it might even be like Gideon and his, well, can you even call it an army?  He started with 32,000, a respectable number, but God whittled them down to 300.  300?!  300.  But they had swords….. or not.  Nope.  No swords.  Spears!  Nope.  No spears.  They had only what God told them to use, which was torches, empty pitchers to put over the torches, and trumpets.  With this “army”, Gideon defeated the innumerable Midianite army in one night, and did so without losing even a single man of his 300.

I wonder….. Could it possibly be like sending a little baby to a remarkably unnotable family, having him grow up to be crucified like a common criminal and then using his death to save the world?  Yes, yes, it is exactly like that.

 But it did not stop there and it will never stop.  God then used 12 really regular “Joes” to spread his soul-saving gospel of his son’s death, burial and resurrection to all the world, in spite of persecutions, famines, shipwrecks, imprisonments, beheadings, stonings, and a whole laundry list of other seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

So be advised.  Today, you may be exactly the weakness God is looking for to make his power known to perfection in this world.

 

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