Category Archives: Blogs

THE HAND HOLDER

Week Twenty-Six, 2022

For I hold you by your right hand — I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. Isaiah 41: 13

He is the Creator of the universe, yet knows our name. He threw the stars into the sky, yet God knows and cares when we cry at night, or when we worry about something in our lives. He holds us tight when we lose someone we love, or when the world seems too overwhelming, and we feel too weak to move on. Our God always does that. Showing us in those moments, that He knows where we are and what we’re going through. And that He cares.

As the story has been passed down to us, President Abraham Lincoln was known to often visit hospitals to talk with the wounded soldiers during the Civil War. During one of his visits, the doctors pointed out a young soldier who was near death, and President Lincoln went to be with him at his bedside.

The President asked, “Is there anything I can do for you?” The soldier obviously didn’t recognize President Lincoln, and with some effort he was able to whisper to him, “Would you please write a letter to my mother?” A pen and paper were provided, and the President carefully began writing down what the young man was able to say.

“My dearest mother, I was badly hurt while doing my duty. I’m afraid I’m not going to recover. Don’t grieve too much for me, please. Kiss Mary and John for me. May God bless you and father.”

The soldier was too weak to continue, so Lincoln signed the letter for him and added …… “Written for your son by Abraham Lincoln.”

The young man asked to see the note and was astonished when he saw who had written it. “Are you really the President?” he asked. “Yes, I am,” Lincoln replied quietly. Then President Lincoln asked if there was anything else he could do for him. “Would you please hold my hand?” the soldier asked. “It will help to see me through to the end.”

In the hushed room, the tall gaunt President took the boy’s hand in his and spoke warm words of encouragement until death came.

God is always as close to us as the President was to the soldier. And He is never closer to us than when we’ve been shipwrecked, crippled or hurt by life. Always holding our hand. He is there when the circumstances of our days, or the unknown things lurking just around the corner drive us to the edge of despair, as we wonder which way to go.

He understands and He knows the way. And He will always be with us, wherever we are, and wherever we go, holding our hand

.- Scott Whitaker

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SOMETIMES TRUE STORIES

Following a twenty-year career in the Marine Corps, Joseph A. Kennedy was hired in 2008 as assistant football coach for the varsity and head coach of the junior varsity squad at Bremerton High School near Seattle, Washington. Soon after, he began kneeling to pray at the fifty-yard line after each game. After a few games, some of his players asked to join him and players did.

His post-game prayer continued for several years, but, in 2015, Bremerton’s athletic director told Kennedy his prayers were against the rules. He refused to stop and was placed on leave; the school district did not rehire him for the following season. Recently, First Liberty defended Coach Kennedy before the US Supreme Court.

Critics allege that the prayers were public, not private, and that the coach was acting coercively in his professional capacity. By contrast, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Coach Kennedy explained his position and the stakes involved: “Unless the US Supreme Court rules in my favor, teachers could be fired for praying over their lunch in the cafeteria if students can see them. That doesn’t seem like the Constitution I fought for in the Marine Corps.

“I just want to be back on the field with my guys, building a team to accomplish a mission. I hope the Supreme Court agrees.”

— o —

The New York Times is profiling a movement called “fictosexuals.” These are people who consider themselves married to a fictional character, whether a doll, a character in a video game, or a similar “person.” One person who “married” a doll wants us to know that as artificial intelligence and robotics allow for more profound interactions with the inanimate, the number of fictosexuals is likely to increase.

— o —

Harvard’s “Study of Adult Development” followed two groups of men over eighty years to “identify the psychosocial predictors of healthy aging.” Beginning before World War II, they interacted with over seven hundred men as they scrutinized blood samples, performed brain scans, and collated surveys.

According to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, the director of the research project, “The clearest message that we get from this eighty-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

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QUOTES YOU CAN USE

When you know firmly what your mission is, it creates passion. Coach Tom Allen

We cannot work our way into heaven, but we are justified by our faith. Cindy Heiberg

We cannot allow ourselves to be paralyzed by fear. Max Wilkins

Well begun is half done. Aristotle

The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new. Socrates

America is the most anxious nation on planet Earth. Kelly Knouse

Rest is a weapon given to us by God. The enemy hates it because he wants us to be stressed and occupied. Elizabeth Elliott

The cross is in the sign of a plus, not a negative. We don’t judge our religion by what we don’t do. We judge our God by adding Jesus to our life.

We are all creations of God, but not all of us are children of God. Jo Mo Cousins

All of the world’s problems could be solved if men would do what God has called them to do. Chris Dodson

God is inviting you to a rich, abundant life – a life with Him. Will you accept the invitation? Will you come? Dan Shock

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THE METER

Week Twenty-Five, 2022

For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this? Esther 4:14

When they sat me down in front of the panel, it was the first instrument they called my attention to. It was the decibel meter, a measuring instrument used to assess noise or sound levels by measuring sound pressure. I had just joined the radio broadcast staff and it was my first day on the air.

They explained the importance. On air voice needs to be at a constant level and those broadcasting should not raise or lower their voice. They taught me other ways to create emphasis rather than raising or lowering my voice. They said to make sure that I kept the needle in the center. It was wonderful training that I have used in public speaking and preaching over the years. I carry one with me to test myself and make sure I stay on a verbal even keel.

decibel meter

I believe that God wants us to be constantly calm while professing our faith. Aim for the target of sharing Christ. I don’t like “yelling sermons or those that dwindle so low that you can’t hear the punch line”. Christians should avoid yelling because yelling is usually brought on by anger. Christians are to build others up, but yelling only starts arguments and more problems. We’re to remain calm in situations and we’re to speak the truth in love without shouting at others. Do you struggle with raising your voice?

Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. Proverbs 29:22 An angry person starts fights; a hot-tempered person commits all kinds of sin. James 1:19-20 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Proverbs 22:24 Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people.

Keep your voice level and reach to others with the message of the Gospel. Be firm. Be calm. Be consistent. Be bold. And never give up.

Joel 2

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SOMETIMES TRUE STORIES

In How Should Christians Vote, Dr. Tony Evans explains the way God’s permissive judgment works: “Freedom means you get to control the choice, but because God is the sovereign ruler over his creation, you don’t get to control the consequences. He will rule by either endorsing your choice, or he will rule by allowing you to have the consequences of a decision made against him.”

He cites those who support abortion on demand and warns, “There is a price tag for legalizing the shedding of innocent blood. The more unborn babies are murdered in our land, the more we can expect violence in our culture as well. Because when a culture goes against God’s laws, God will allow that culture to experience the consequences of the breaking of that law—in this case the resultant devaluing of life as well as the effects of that devaluing.”

Another example is our culture’s rejection of biblical sexuality and the resulting epidemic of pornography, sex trafficking, sexually transmitted diseases, and broken homes and lives.

In When A Nation Forgets God, Pastor Erwin Lutzer writes, “It is said that after God died in the nineteenth century, man died in the twentieth. For when God is dead, man becomes an untamed beast.” Jim Denison

— o —

Google has launched an “inclusive language” function that warns writers to avoid certain words and phrases that “may not be inclusive to all readers.” It will prompt you to change “mankind” to “humankind” and “policeman” to “police officer,” for example. I wonder if one day I will be prompted to change “same-sex marriage” to “marriage equality” and “sex change operation” to “gender affirmation therapy” as such euphemisms normalize a “personal truth” culture.

— o —

“I’ve been doing this for 40 years, and that was a first”, said fireman Tim Manly after rescuing a woman who had fallen into the hole of a public outhouse while trying to retrieve her mobile phone.

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QUOTES YOU CAN USE

The number one threat to American constitutional government today is the collapse of the middle class. Ganesh Sitarman

Sometimes when God puts you out on a limb, it’s a place of safety. Coach Tom Allen.

When you are troubled by circumstances that you don’t understand, follow Jesus’ example. Dan Shock

Is there a transactional dimension to your relationship with God? Are you tempted to worship God on Sunday so he will bless you on Monday? To start the day with prayer so he will bless your day? To respond in anger if he doesn’t “keep up his end of the bargain”? Jim Denison

Never underestimate the vast ignorance and stupidity of the vast American electorate. Cal Thomas

I never worry about action, but only inaction. Winston Churchill

One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety-nine who have only interests. John Stuart Mill

“WE ARE FAMILY”

By Semi-Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you 
to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 
2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, 
bearing with one another in love, 
3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  
 

– Ephesians 4:1-3 [NKJV]

   The year was 1979.  The Baltimore Orioles (American League) were playing the Pittsburgh Pirates (National League) in that year’s edition of baseball’s World Series.  The #1 song of the pop charts was Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” (got the tune in your head?).  And the charismatic leader of the Pirates was none other than Willie Stargell, who, by series end, would be given the coveted title of “Most Valuable Player of the World Series”.  

   The Pirates won the series 4 Games to 3.  How did they do it?  Their team was a bunch of old timers and youngsters thrown together.  On the surface they had no cohesiveness, no teamwork.  But in stepped the Captain, Willie Stargell.  The song, “We Are Family” became the team theme song.  And Willie, well, willed his team to victory.

   Family.  What is your concept of family? 

 In 2011 we were heading down to Ft. Lauderdale for my then 40th high school reunion.  In the midst of our plans, my sister-in-law from South Carolina suggested, “as long as you’re heading south, why not stop at our place here and spend time with your brother?”.  In retrospect, I am still amazed at my response:  “only if you contact our other brother in North Carolina so that the 3 of us can be together.”  Family.  We had a BLAST!  We knew right them that we needed to do this reunion thing every year – which we did until 2020 when my North Carolina brother died of cancer.  In the BIG PICTURE, I am so glad that we had quality time together the last 10 years of his life.  For we figured it out:  the 3 of us brothers had been in the same room 5 times – for 3 funerals and 2 weddings – in the 43 YEARS previous to 2011.  Family.

   What is YOUR concept of “Family”, which, according to the Good Book is the most precious unit created by God in society.  

   But then we talk loosely about “Church Family”.  But how loose is loose?  The most precious unit created by God also refers to the church!

   I encourage you to read the book, “NO LITTLE PLACES”, written by Ron Klassen, a man I met a number of years ago at a conference for the “Rural Home Missionary Association” (“RHMA”).  In the book he speaks of a small country church he pastored which had pastor after pastor, each one using that church as a stepping stone to a “bigger and better” charge.  When the author had been there 5 years, he too began to candidate elsewhere until…he realized his heart was back in the country church.  He stayed, and it PROSPERED!  His conclusion is interesting:  he realized the church, as a family, each time a pastor left, was being ripped apart like a DIVORCE.  

   Another thought on family:  is the family made up of perfect people?  NO!  Is the church family made up of perfect people? NO! Then why do we expect perfection when all God requires is…FAITHFULNESS.

   Have you looked up our Savior’s roots lately?  Take a minute and read Matthew 1:1-17.  What do you have?  Children born as a result of rape.  A son born as a result of having the husband (Uriah) killed so that David could marry Uriah’s wife (Bathsheba).    Very interesting!  But NOT perfect!   Isn’t that something?  The Savior’s lineage, while He is sinless, is made up of sinners!  And God shows how He brings together SINNERS as FAMILY in Ephesians chapters 4-6.

   So let’s look at these first 3 verses of Chapter 4.  

FIRST, the foundation of the family is…(and how would YOU fill in the blank?).   DOCTRINE!  “Therefore” – don’t forget that when you read that word in scripture, you need to find out WHAT IT’S THERE FOR!  This “therefore” refers to the previous three chapters which were Paul’s doctrinal theology to the Ephesian church.  But don’t forget:  even as we enter into the practical section of this book, even PRACTICAL is “practical doctrine/theology”.  

   How do you know you belong – because of your heritage!  

Have I a story for y’all!  Last month my wife and I were in Florida for a mini-vacation, and guess who we met?  “Betsy”.  She is my…Dad’s brother’s daughter!  At age 81, Betsy is my FIRST cousin.  With her brother, they are my ONLY “first cousins” on my dad’s side.  AND this was the FIRST time we ever met!  (Now that’s a long story for another time!).  In the midst of our catching up, Betsy kept on referring to her grandfather in the first person, “my grandfather.”  Finally I said, “shouldn’t Grandpa be OUR grandfather?”.  FAMILY!  We belong to each other!

   Practical living is based upon a godly foundation.  Having the foundation of chapters 1-3, we can now live for Christ as guided by chapters 4-6!

   SECOND, the family’s LIFE is a WALK!    OK, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?  Remember when your baby was thinking about taking his/her first step?  He waddled, then fell.  He waddled, then grabbed the wall, then fell.  He waddled, then grabbed your leg, and then?  He took one step,..then another…then another…then?  You haven’t been able to keep him down since!  

   Paul says that the believer is to “walk worthy”.  Wait a minute!!!  Where was Paul when he wrote this?  You bet – he was in a Roman jail!  In fact, from prison he wrote many of the New Testament books!  You mean, you can “walk worthy” while feeling like you are in a prison, even if it is not a literal one?  You bet!  The church family is also a worthy walk!  And that takes time, just like watching a baby learn how to walk.  Now the baby is growing up.  So do you give him steak at age one?  NO!  It takes time to grow – and in turn, it takes time for the family to grow.  And in the same breath, it take time for the church to grow!  

   Finally, the family’s HEART is its MATURITY.  

    Look at the description:  
• “Lowliness” (verse 2).  This means “humility”. Romans 12:3 says “not to think of oneself higher than we ought to”
•   “Gentleness” (verse 2).  This means “unselfishness, meekness”.  It has the idea of a tamed horse.  Jesus said of Himself, “I am meek” (Matthew 11:28).
•   “Longsuffering” (verse 2).  This is a most interesting word!  It has the idea of patience until…are you ready?…until the time of irritation!  Can you be longsuffering that long?
•   “Bearing with one another in love” (verse 2).  This has the idea of making allowances, to put up with one another because…you love one another!
•   “Endeavoring to keep” the unity (verse 3).  The idea is to guard, just like someone who protects his quarterback!

   “The unity of the Spirit”.  Well now, can you imagine this happening in YOUR family?  Can you imagine this happening in YOUR church?  This is not a denominational unity but a oneness because…we are FAMILY.

   Have you ever heard of the term “metamorphosis”?  It refers to those moments when a cocoon becomes a butterfly.  Have you ever watched the process, I mean WATCHED it?  It take a LONG TIME!    You might be tempted, as the butterfly is appearing, to help it along by cutting those fibers which connect it to the wall of the cocoon.  And then pretty soon what happens?  That creature which had potential to be a beautiful butterfly…DIES.  The fibers contained the fluid which goes to the wings and ultimately gives the butterfly its nutrients and complete life.

   Similarly, a family, as well as a church, is a collection of sinners which each one needs the grace of God!  Each member is to “walk worthy of the calling with which” he/she was called.  And each one is going through an amazing “metamorphosis”!  So here are some questions:

I am a baby – are you willing to let me grow?
I am maturing in the family – are you willing to come alongside?
I could become dysfunctional – are you going to work at “keeping the unity of the Spirit”?

THE CYCLES OF LIFE

Week Twenty-Four, 2022

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I listened intently as he talked about his family’s life. He was a gifted musician and came from a family of the same. His father wanted him to be a great musician and his instruction started early in his life. His father would drive him in the car and turn on symphony music and ask, “son what music is this and who wrote it.”

Over the years, the young boy grew up to become a gifted celloist and the father grew in years. The boy’s mother developed a brain tumor. He learned about his mother as he watched his dad care for her until death. Then dad found a new wife, only to nurse and care for her through cancer and death. Then he found a third wife, but now he has Alzheimer’s and has reverted to childhood. The son now drives him in the car, turns on symphony music and asks, “dad, what music is this and who wrote it.”

In his narration, the son said, “now the father has become the child and the child has become the father.” As I listened, I could not hold back the tears.

Life is that way. There is a time for everything in life. God created us and some day He will take us away.

Humans have mastered many things in this world, but some elements of our existence are beyond our control. We cannot conquer time. God is the one who appoints each moment.

Our lives contain a mixture of joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, harmony and struggle, and life and death. Each season has its appropriate time in the cycle of life. Nothing stays the same, and we, as God’s children, must learn to accept and adjust to the ebb and flow of God’s design. Some seasons are difficult, and we may not understand what God is doing. In those times, we must humbly submit to the Lord’s plans and trust that He is working out His good purposes.

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SOMETIMES TRUE STORIES

They started in colleges, but trans closets—rooms stocked with transgender clothes and accessories for students to change into after arriving to school and back out of before going home—are being discovered in public schools with some indication they are being kept a secret from parents. A California teacher said that the trans closet he started at the high school where he works is meant to be kept from parents. “The goal of the transition closet is for our students to wear the clothes that their parents approve of, come to school and then swap out into the clothes that fit who they truly are,” the teacher said.

— o —

Florida voting drop boxes are now called secure ballot intake stations.

— o —

Declining membership closes one of Gulfport’s oldest churches after 75 years:

Half a century ago, Yvonne Johnson came to Pinellas County to build a home with her husband. She ended up helping build a church. “This became my home,” the 93-year-old said at Gulfport Presbyterian Church on Sunday.

One of the longest running religious institutions in the city, Gulfport Presbyterian held its last service that morning. Its membership had dwindled to just 19 at the time of the closure. Most members were older adults.

The church joins other places of worship across the U.S. forced to shutter as attendance shrinks and more young people identify as spiritual but not religious.

Is this a sign of the times?

— o —

John Adams, our second president, wrote a letter in 1798 to the officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts.

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

It is Adams’ reasoning behind this assertion, however, that French wants us to consider: “We have no Government armed with Power capable of contending with human Passions unbridled by morality and Religion. Avarice, Ambition, Revenge, or Gallantry, would break the strongest Cords of our Constitution as a Whale goes through a net.”

This is why the US Constitution is adequate only for a “moral and religious people” and cannot govern any other.

The Constitution and the American legal system built upon it can help to restrict and punish immorality, but they cannot prevent it. If someone wants to slander you or steal from you, they can likely do so. At best, our system will help you seek redress and punish them for their crimes, but it cannot change the character that enabled such immorality.

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QUOTES YOU CAN USE

Your performance has nothing to do with your value. Coach Tom Allen

Little progress can be made by merely attempting to repress what is evil. Our great hope lies in developing what is good. Calvin Coolidge

Elon Musk is not “the light of the world.” That job has already been taken. The morality our democracy needs depends on Christians following Christ so passionately and obediently that others want to follow Christ. Such a moral transformation cannot be catalyzed by secular leaders, no matter how wealthy and powerful they are, or by secular institutions, no matter how pervasive and influential they might be.

Jim Denison

An uncluttered financial life is one with little to no debt. The Minimalist

There is no greater harm than time wasted. Michelangelo

Perhaps our race relations could be improved if we could be more like Jesus who looks at our hearts to check out our progress as pilgrims in this weary land. Transplants support this as a heart from a donor of different outward color works just fine inside the body! Dwight Short

Every day we meet an average of seven people who are not saved. Cindy Heiberg

Christians should be focused and centered on Jesus. We can do no better. Max Wilkins

People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents. Andrew Carnegie

Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility. Peter Drucker

The sum of wisdom is that time is never lost that is devoted to work. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Never discourage anyone…who continually makes progress, no matter how slow. Plato

I am not saying that what we are seeing today is proof positive that Jesus is coming tomorrow. What I am saying is, it could be. Tony Evans

QUOTES YOU CAN USE

“HOME AT LAST”

By Semi-Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford

“14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,  16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,  17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you,  being rooted and grounded in love,  18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints  what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge;  that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly  above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,  21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations,  forever and ever. Amen.

    — Ephesians 3:14-21 [NKJV]

   How does it make you feel when someone tells you, “Hey – I’ve been praying for you!”?  Don’t you feel that, either #1 “Great!  I sure could use prayer!”, or #2 “Wow!  What’s WRONG with me that I needed prayer?”.

   And even though we are challenged to pray for others, our natures tend to cause us to pray mainly for…ourselves and for our needs.

   Like the little boy who prayed, “Lord, I’m not praying for anything for myself, just a new bike for my BROTHER that we BOTH can ride.”

   Our text shows a neat thing.  Paul is praying for the CHURCH!

   First, he prays for the PURPOSE of the church.  Notice verse 14:  “For this reason” (or “cause”).  What reasons?

   * Being the objects of the Father’s affection (Chapter 1, especially verses 3-4)

   * Being the objects of the Son’s work (Chapter 2, especially verses 20-22)

   * Being the objects of the eternal mystery (Chapter 3, especially verses 10-11)

   * Being the object of the eternal work which may cause temporary struggles (Chapter 3, especially verse 13).

   Chapters 1-3 is the doctrinal section section of this book.  Paul wants to be sure that doctrine is carefully applied.  So what does he do?  He PRAYS for the church!

   Second, for the rest of the chapter Paul prays for the PRACTICE of the church, as seen in verses 14-19.  What do you suppose guides that practice?  First all all Paul looks at the SUFFICIENCY of the Father (verses 14-15).  This leads me to a question:  have you ever heard of – or even voiced the phrase – “the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man”.  Such  folks who hold to such a teaching have no need for personal redemption, for the cross, for the blood of the Lamb.  There would be no need for redemption under that thinking because, think of that, no Savior would be needed if EVERYONE is born a child of God.  Hmmm.  

   But there is another extreme:  there is the elimination of God’s existence!  And if we were really honest with ourselves, that is what the world is trying to do on a massive scale today.

   What is the Biblical balance?   For one, God IS in charge!  Matthew 5:45 says, “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”   Let me ask you a question here:  have you ever heard a weatherman apologize for being wrong?  You bet – all the time!  Why?  Because “Mother Nature” and “Jack Frost”, despite his nipping at your nose, are NOT in charge.  Our Father is!

   Furthermore, God is the Author of life – and He wants…WORSHIP!  Have you read Psalm 139:13-18 lately?  Please do, and when you do, note especially verse 14,  “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.”  And  remember the psalmist’s plea in verses 23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Do I fully fathom the depth of the Father’s hunger for my worship?  Do you?

   That reminds me of the marvelous, amazing story of the admiral of the boat directing it into harbor.  He hears a voice over his radio, “Commander of the ship –   turn 90 degrees starboard”.  The Admiral says to himself, “you’re nuts, I’m going the way I want.  I’ve gone this way many times.”  So he refuses to answer, and continues as he is going.  Soon a voice returns, “Commander of the ship – turn 90 degrees starboard, now!”.  The Admiral says to himself, “this guy has been smoking some whacky weed – there is no way I am going to obey a mysterious voice.”   It wasn’t long that the voice came back…”you must turn now!”.  Finally, the Admiral had enough.”You don’t understand.  I am the ADMIRAL OF THIS SHIP!!!”  And the voice says, “And I am the KEEPER OF THE LIGHTHOUSE!”

   The Lord hungers for His worship, for He alone is worthy of both our eternal as well as our daily worship and trust.

   The second guide of the practice is the STRENGTH of the Holy Spirit (verse 16).   Notice that the Holy Spirit’s “practice” is “according to the riches of His glory”.  I once heard the story – really! – of some missionaries who sought to enter Fort Knox, the holder of our nation’s gold.  They went up to the door – really!  They sought entrance to share with the overseers of Fort Knox about the love of God in Christ.  Of course, those keepers would not let them in.  On the other hand, the believer in Christ can go into God’s storehouse at any time!

   The STRENGTH of the Spirit is also seen in the “inner man”, the location of the REAL me.  Colossians 3 would be a good cross reference for learning about the working of the Holy Spirit in the “inner man”.  

Romans 6:6 is helpful as well:  “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.”  The fruit of all this is that the Lord Himself will be on display in our lives!

   And third, our prayer is enhanced in a most practical way by the SETTLEMENT of the Son!  Verse 17 says in part, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts”.  WAIT A MINUTE!  I thought He already did!   Let me think through this salvation thing!  Jesus – the King of kings and Lord of lords – left Heaven’s glory, God becoming man, and ultimately died on the cross for my sin.  I have trusted that truth for my salvation.  He only is my HOPE!  So why does Christ have to further “dwell in my heart”?  What is the function of His “dwell”-ing in my heart?  The word “dwell” is a RICH word.  It means “to settle down;  abide; make His permanent home” .  WHAT?  Yes, it means to be HOME AT LAST!  

   How does that work?  Simply put, the believer goes through the day with Christ WITH you!    I’m reminded of the pastor who came a parishioner’s home to have lunch there after church one Sunday.  The father of the home asked the pastor to “return thanks for the food”.  He gave a simple prayer, and then all began to eat.  However, the little boy belted out, “PASTOR, YOU DON’T PRAY LONG WHEN YOU’RE HUNGRY, DO YOU?”  

   But the believer dwelling in Christ means that he is surrounded by God’s grace.  He is also filled with “the fullness of Christ.”  (Verse 19).  This means that he is “flooded” with His presence!  See 1:23.  Wow!  All that while in prayer!

   So brethren – how should we end our prayers?  Do we say, “Yahoo!  I’m done!”.  For many of us we say, “Phew!  I’m finished!”.  But our servant leader the apostle Paul says we should close our prayer in praise.  “PRAISE”? (Verses 20-21)  Yes, indeed!  Look at verse 21, as this brings us back to reality:  “to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”  This is HIS program.  We are to pray, AND we are to give praise!

   There is a TRUE story from back in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s of the tightrope walker who set up a tightrope across Niagara Falls.  Before he began his “walk” across the Falls, he asked his crowd, “Who believes that I am able to cross the Falls walking only on this tightrope?”  Most everyone raised his or her hand.  Then he followed it up with another question:  “well then, who believes that I can cross the Falls on this tightrope with a person on my shoulders?”.  Once again, most of the crowd agreed, including everyone in the front row of onlookers.  He then went up to one of those who raised his hand  “yes” and asked, “well then, will you allow me to put you on my shoulders – if you really believe I can do it?”.  

   The Lord’s program is the same!  It is the proving that He is Who He says He is, working through the program He is building – His church!  And finally, the Lord’s program is amazingly to bring glory to Christ through His church.  

DID YOU KNOW THAT JESUS IS BRINGING GLORY TO HIMSELF 

THROUGH YOUR CHURCH?

THE PRAYER OF JABEZ

Week Twenty-Three, 2022

And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So, God granted him what he requested (1 Chronicles 4:10).

Jabez’s prayer is misunderstood by many people. They think prayer is a way to obtain what we want. But it is not correct. God doesn’t exist for our pleasure, nor does He exist to do our bidding. When my heart is aligned with God’s, my prayers won’t be about my desires, but about His purposes.

Jabez understood that God wanted to bless him. God wants to bless you too, but there are things you must do to receive those blessings. You must hearken diligently to the will of God. You must walk in the ways of God. You must do the things God has commanded you to do.

If, like Israel, you ignore the voice of God, walk in your own ways, and disobey His commandments, you put yourself outside the place of blessing. But if you will just listen to His voice, if you will walk in His ways, if you will observe to do the things that He has commanded, then the blessings will be yours.

“Father, help us to truly understand the purpose of prayer, and may we not seek to use it as a means to gratify our own desires. We pray that we will walk in Your ways, and that we will observe the things that You have commanded so that we might know Your blessings upon our life. In Jesus’ name, amen.” — Dan Shock

***

SOMETIMES TRUE STORIES

Our churches are filled with many who have grown up in the church, attending Sunday School, attending church events, giving tithes and offerings, maybe even taking leadership roles. Yet, they have never accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. Nor they repented and they have never asked Him into their hearts or lives. They attend, but have not known Him as Lord, nor understood His mission and the hope, peace, grace, love and forgiveness that He brings. Marty Stubblefield

— o —

“Christianity is in its very essence a resurrection religion,” wrote John R. W. Stott. “The concept of resurrection lies at its heart. If you remove it, Christianity is destroyed!”

In his commentary on Luke, Colly Caldwell offers this observation regarding Jesus’ resurrection. “This singular event establishing His divinity forms the unique aspect of Christianity which rises about all other world religions.” The remains of all other religious founders remain buried. But the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth is empty.

— o —

Sexually transmitted infections in the US surged to a record high in 2020.

— o —

Some 80% of the people who live in Tampa do not have or attend a local church.

— o —

Hebrews-13v8

***

QUOTES YOU CAN USE

Why does a $50 bill look so small at the mall and so large in church? Ken Whitten

DO SMALL THINGS WITH GREAT LOVE. MOTHER THERESSA

Reaching your goals and dreams takes more than just doing what is expected of you, as good and as hard as that may be. Exceeding your dreams and goals is about doing what is expected and then some. It’s about taking personal responsibility for it. It’s about owning it. Marty Stubblefield

Good things become bad things when they take the place of the best thing. Ken Witten

The enemy wants us to wallow in our own sin. Cindy Heiberg

Making disciples is the key to the great commission, Max Wilkins

I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me, and I didn’t have the heart to let him down. Abraham Lincoln

If you wonder why you have a yearning in your heart, it is because God calls people to do His work. Neither machines, computers, or technology of any kind can accomplish what God wants you to do. Dwight Short

People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents. Andrew Carnegie

Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God. Leo Buscaglia

“RADICAL GRACE”

By Semi-Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford

To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. 13 Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory..”

— Ephesians 3:8-13 [NKJV]

We have little apparent problem with “grace” – as we learned in Bible School the alliteration, “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense”. But “Radical” Grace? What do you think when you hear the word “radical”? Webster defines it this way: “favoring extreme change.”

How about some examples:

* Visions of Pearl Harbor, followed by the youth of the world raising their arms in obeisance to Hitler. That’s radical.

* When the Japanese emperor was on horseback riding down the streets of Tokyo, and all bowed in worship so as not to see his face. That’s radical.

* When John Carlos and Tommy Hines at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico on the champions stand raise their gloved fists in what became known as the “Black power salute”. That’s radical.

* When Patty Hearst, daughter and heir to one of the richest men in America, gets kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army (“SLA”) and after becomes one with their movement. That’s radical.

But to join that same word with one of the most precious terms of the Christian faith – GRACE – you say that’s UNTHINKABLE!

Wouldn’t you like to learn how your faith can be a display of RADICAL GRACE? Our text today will teach us!

First, let’s look at the “personal view”. Did you notice the first part of verse 8: “to me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was give.” The personal view says “an unworthy subject gives endless riches to unworthy subjects.”

Throughout Scripture Paul shares his testimony which could be summarized with these words: “I am an unworthy subject.” 1 Timothy 1:15 says in part, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am CHIEF”. In Acts 26, in sharing his testimony before King Agrippa, Paul said, “I persecuted Christians…I cast my vote for their death.” Paul thought he was zealous against the Church. He learned on the road to Damascus that he was truly zealous against the Lord Jesus Himself! The Savior once said, “He that is not with Me is against Me.” The Lord told Paul personally, “I Am Jesus Whom you are persecuting.” Yet in the midst of all this, the Savior offers to Paul GRACE: “I will send you to the Gentiles, to turn their darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God…that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance with other Christians.

Paul was extended Radical GRACE, the willingness to see Jesus as others see Him. Radical GRACE extended needs RADICAL help. We need to pray for that help – for us and for others!

Secondly, let’s look at the “eternal view”, as seen in verses 9-11.

The mystery is now revealed (and, no, the butler did NOT do it), although hidden from before creation (verse 9). Just what things ARE hidden?

* The creation! “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1)

* BEFORE Gen. 1:1, the Savior’s arrival was well planned!

* BEFORE Gen. 1:1, the cross was well planned!

* BEFORE Gen. 1:1, the church was well planned!

This is RADICAL GRACE – not an after thought to sin but prepared love for sinners!

Verse 10 has an astounding thought – “such wisdom was hidden from eternal beings and is revealed not through them but through the church!”. “Wow!”, heaven shouts!

Why? Because the angels were there:

At the creation!

t the creation!

At the gar

At the garden!

At the fall!

At history!

At the treatment of God’s Son Whom they always worshipped!

At the cross, and at the resurrection!

But now to see changed lives enjoy by redemption that which they enjoy by creation!

AND the church is its only messenger. “Wow” again!

The eternal view includes the reality that such an eternal purpose is accomplished thru only One object, if you will, God’s Son (verse 11).

People can object to many things: family (our consistencies or even the lack), and even the church and its frailties.

But they cannot object to Christ and the reality of salvation. He alone is the heart of salvation.

Is it possible to have an eternal view in today’s world? Let’s look at the example of a football player named Danny Wuerffel. While playing for the University of Florida, he set school and conference records as his school’s quarterback. In his senior year, he helped lead his team to win the school’s first national football championship. And to highlight his year, he won the auspicious “Heisman Trophy” as the collegiate’s best football player. He spent years as a professional football player, but even through the rigors of football he also was involved in the “Desire Street Ministries”, a non-profit group which was used, per its history, “to help impoverished neighborhoods through spiritual and community development.” But having done all those amazing things, what was his foundation in life? Listen to his words: “I’m playing to an audience of One,” he says, pointing skyward. “As long as I can look up and feel I did my best, then I won’t worry about what other people think.” Is that our testimony?

Finally, there is the “practical view”, as displayed in verses 12-13.

Now, in Christ, we have courage and a dynamic approach to Christ! AND outward circumstances should not cause us to lose heart but realize they are for our glory! What is that? That is RADICAL GRACE!!!

Let’s close with perhaps the most amazing story in the life of Corrie ten Boom, who, with her family, for Jesus sake would hide many Jews from the Nazis during World War 2. However, she and her family were eventually captured by their enemies. She would spend the rest of the war in a concentration camp – where the atrocities of war resulted in many of her family members to be executed at the camp, in particular her favorite sister.

After being released at the end of the war, Corrie continued her testimony for Christ by speaking at many conferences, giving testimony of God’s RADICAL GRACE and protection. At the end of one of her presentations, a German gentleman came up to her with tears in his eyes. These are his words: “I was a jailer responsible for the death of your family. I have come to Christ in faith. I seek your forgiveness for what I did in my unbelief. To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!” He reached out his hands for a handshake of fellowship and forgiveness. There was little hesitation. Corrie told him, “Jesus gave me your forgiveness.” They were one in faith in Christ.

That is RADICAL GRACE! Is it on display in our lives?

MARKERS

Week Twenty-Two, 2022

There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord. – Genesis 12:8

Certainly, you have seen them. They were invented about fifty years ago by Sidney Allen “Al” Heenan, who was named inventor of the year for his contribution to automobile safety. They are now standard installations of all major roads and highways. White reflectors are placed along white traffic lines; yellow reflectors are placed along yellow traffic lines. Red reflectors tell drivers they are going the wrong way up a one-way ramp or that they should not enter. Blue reflectors mark fire hydrants. There is one of those in front of my house.

The Bible has many markers. Abraham built an alter and so did Isaac. They were markers to identify significant events in God’s journey through spiritual history. In our lives there are spiritual markers that denote our spiritual journey through life. They are things, events, that remind us of significant events, truths, seasons or decisions in our lives.

Spiritual markers are reminders. Reminders of life altering events, or major decision taken at various points in our lives. They are markers of God’s activity. Like Noah building an altar after the flood (Gen 6-8). Or feasts that remind us of specific events that have spiritual significance, like Passover for the Israelites. They mark His ongoing activity in our lives in different ways. We notice that we leave the experience a stronger or different person for the better. We may not always feel stronger immediately after the event or season, but with the passing of time we look back and say: “Hey, look how God used that in my life.” Even if it is the worst experience of our life, with time, we look back and see that God made it something beautiful in or lives.

As we remember the events and circumstances around our spiritual markers, our own faith is bolstered and strengthened. You know it is a significant spiritual marker if you find that you share it often, this normally indicates that it had significant impact on you. One such example is in 1 Sam 7:1-12 where Samuel put up a stone to remind the people that “God has helped us” against our enemies.

Spiritual milestones are those acts where we take a step in the process of spiritual formation, steps we take as we are being transformed to the image of Jesus Christ. As we grow spiritually we begin learning to discern God’s voice.

What are the spiritual markers in your life?

Lord help me to identify the spiritual markers in my life and in so doing develop spiritual memory in my walk with You. As I remember these events help them to strengthen my faith and keep me consistently on the path. Also help me to share with others, so that they too may benefit from my walk with You. Thank You Father that you are constantly working in my life and that these markers are reminders to me that I belong to You and my future is secure in You.

***

SOMETIMES TRUE STORIES

We have a decision to make…

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 NIV

Living for Jesus is challenging,

but accepting Him as Lord and Savior is imperative…

and is as simple as ABC:

A – Acknowledge that you have sinned: “Sin” means “missing the mark.” For all have sinned and fall short of the glory (Romans 3:23).

B – Believe in Jesus: Believing in Jesus is more than just knowing that He exists. It is placing total trust and faith in Jesus. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31).

C – Confess Jesus as Lord: Confessing Christ means accepting His plan for your life. If you say with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and if you believe in your heart that God raised Christ from death, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).

“Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive you as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for forgiving me of my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of my life. Make me the kind of person that you want me to be. In Your name I pray. Amen”

If you’ve prayed this and it resonates, reach out to others who are following Jesus, and talk through it, pray through it. It will be the greatest decision of your life.

Marty Stubblefield

— o —

You won’t find the solution to your problems by looking at other people or yourself. Direct your thoughts away from the problem and put them on God; away from your own weaknesses and onto His strength. You need to remember that God loves you and is in control of the circumstances that surround your life. Dan Shock

2 Timothy 1v7

***

QUOTES YOU CAN USE

A god is anything you look to for good in your life, anything you count on, bank on, or trust in for you for your well-being. It is the thing you grasp or hold on to make life work. Ken Whitten

When fighting a “culture war,” should we be passivists or activists? The answer is yes. Jim Denison

How do we get to the end of our lives with minimal regrets? We choose well. We set aside lesser pursuits to seek meaning in our lives. And we do it every single day.” Joshua Becker

With your eyes closed, answer this, “If you were to die today, what is the one project you would be most disappointed that you weren’t able to complete?” The Minimalist

There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow men. True nobility lies in being superior to your former self. Ernest Hemingway

Giving money and power to the government is like giving whiskey and care keys to teenage boys. P.J. O’rourke

The man who will use his skill and constructive imagination to see how much he can give for a dollar, instead of how little he can give for a dollar, is bound to succeed. Henry Ford

Problems are only opportunities in work clothes. Henry J. Kaiser

Fear is the enemy. Fear is of the enemy. Fear is the opposite of faith. Fear makes us think, “What if I don’t…” Marty Stubblefield

The really unhappy person is the one who leaves undone what they can do, and starts doing what they don’t understand; no wonder they come to grief. Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

There are three faithful friends – an old wife, an old dog, and ready money. Ben Franklin

If you don’t know, the thing to do is not to get scared, but to learn. Ann Rand

“THE HEART IS DECEITFUL”

Jeremy Stopford (Semi-Retired Pastor?)

May 23, 2022

I read with great interest Brother Grant’s article this week about his heart. I’m not sure why that many servants of the Lord have similar experiences.

Sometime around four summers ago I had noticed that when I went for walks, well, not all of me moved with my feet! I would go for regular morning walks from my pastor’s study to the local post office, about 1/2 mile away. It was a good walk, a good opportunity to get outdoors. Also it was a GREAT opportunity to meet people at the post office!

I had the privilege in my last charge to serve the Lord there for precisely on the spot 10 years! I knew I would like this assignment (assigned by God, of course!).

Our community was only 5 miles from nearby Hamilton, New York, home of Colgate University. Not known to you? Colgate sports is area famous! Its football team is in what’s known as “Division 3”. But its hockey team is Division 1 all the way! It competes with collegiate teams from all over the country – many of which have the misfortune of traveling to central New York in the midst of one of our classic snow storms. The Colgate Patriots hockey teams have played in the “frozen four” many years, having finished 2nd in the NATION in 1990. What fun! And the Colgate football played in its own Division 3 finals at least once, the year it went 16-0. We went to the home playoff games – and yes, now those blizzards were OUTSIDE where there was no arena to protect either the fans nor the players from the white stuff.

Our little town of Earlville, New York…WAIT! How small is it? The population varies yearly, although many of Colgate’s professors live in Earlville because the property taxes are MUCH lower than in their beloved Hamilton. Years ago there were signs at each of the entrances to the village reading, “Earlville – Smalltown USA”.

We looked forward to the culture that our area provides. One of the features of our community is the “Earlville Opera House”. Why even one of the summers we lived in Earlville guess who played at the opera house? You bet! Peter Yarrow of “Peter, Paul, and Mary” fame. We could not park in front of our house – the streets were SO packed!

OH, the post office! In my first weeks as the pastor of the local Baptist church, I learned fast that there were two places to meet people in the village. The first was the Huff Brau tavern…AND RESTAURANT! (Except that often one had to pay for one’s meal at the bar, even though such meal had been enjoyed in the restaurant). I got to know the bartender real well. (That wasn’t worded too good was it? But you know what I mean!).

And then there was the post office! It was probably during that first week when I walked in, went to the church’s mail box and retrieved our mail, turned around to head out the door, when…in walked Doc Jerry. He was the retired overseer of the former mastitis laboratory which used to be housed across from the Opera House. Its building is now home to the Quincy Square Museum, a wonderful establishment which includes local history such as the old conestoga wagons which were built in the factory at the end of West Main Street and right near the train station – which location made for easy shipping throughout the world!

Back to Doc Jerry – he looked SO familiar, even though I had never met him before! When we sat down to compare notes, I learned that his younger brother was the founder of the office supply store in nearby Norwich, at which store where my wife was then working for Doc Jerry’s nephew who had bought the business from his parents! Small world, eh? And it was earlier this year when Doc called to let me know that his wife had died, and would I officiate her service. Did Doc ever come to church? No – well, except for the reception when I retired. Amazing lesson here – real ministry occurs NOT within the 4 walls of the church. Just sayin’.

Oh, back to the walks! It was on those walks to the post office when I noticed I was often “running out of breath”, needing to pause to “catch my breath”. One day four years ago my primary care doctor said while using his beloved stethoscope, “something doesn’t sound right”. The long story shortened…I ended up in an area hospital where they performed a nuclear stress test and an echocardiogram.

The results were read by a zillion year old (well, actually around 75 years old – not to offend anyone of that age!) retired heart surgeon. About 45 minutes after he began reviewing my tests results, he called me into his office. 3 insights: Number One “Where’s your wife? She ought to be here.” [she’s at a local store – you said the tests would take 3 hours instead of 1 1/2 hours). Number Two: “Your situation is urgent”. (I’m thinking “‘urgent’? Get me into the nearby hospital NOW”.) Number Three: “I’m surprised you’re still alive”.

“Yessiree! They will roll me right into the hospital, no suitcase needed!”. The old geezer (please accept my apologies) rolls me over to the receptionist’s station and says, “set up an appointment with the head surgeon.”

“Urgent”, the test evaluator said.

“I can get you in before the surgeon in two weeks,” the receptionist said.

“Urgent,” he said.

“For a consult,” she said!

Two weeks later, both my wife and I were in the surgeon’s office to view the latest, up-to-the-date defibrillator/pacemaker! And two weeks later (a full month after “URGENT”), I was wheeled into the operating room to receive my new addition to my body parts.

And I, too, looked up at the ceiling (see the Hon. John Grant’s story)! Looking up at the ceiling was all I was allowed to do for 24 hours!

“The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9a).

Jeremiah, my name sake, would ask the same question in his wonderful prophesy.

Do you ever read verse 10?

“I, the Lord, search the heart. I test the mind. Even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.”

Both the lost and the found are the recipients of THIS spiritual defibrillator! The Lord searches the heart, just as my defibrillator/pacemaker searches mine and says, “speed up!” Or “slow down!”. And if one day I need a real jolt – I haven’t had one yet – my defibrillator can supposedly bring me back to life! But our Heavenly Father searches for those who love Him through trust in the purchase, not of a defibrillator, but of the blood of the Lamb slain at Calvary!

I, too, looked up at the ceiling and marveled. Unlike the temporary medical healing that the surgical staff of that hospital could give me, my Heavenly Father has given me an eternal healing of my heart! I belong to Him – and by faith, He to me!

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE! About a year ago, we had a new neighbor and his family move into the apartment on the other side of ours. Pretty soon I noticed a most regular yet IRREGULAR occurrence: an alarm would go off every morning at 7:07am. Same time every day. Same sound every day. At first, I was SURE it was coming from my new neighbor’s side of the building! But after many days of persistent alarm sounds, I began to wonder – is it coming from my watch? Is it coming from my computer? Is it coming from my wife’s laptop computer? FROM WHERE WAS IT COMING??? Even when I was in the hospital last December enjoying the joys and fruit of Covid Pneumonia, my 7:07 alarm followed me. Every day without fail.

One morning earlier this year my wife and I were in the kitchen shortly after 7 am when, at precisely 7:07am my daily alarm roared out. My wife said, “JEREMY! The alarm is coming from your defibrillator!”

So I sent a text message to my cardiologist’s office. Within minutes, I received a phone call from that office: “GET IN HERE NOW!”.

“The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. Who can know it?”

It seems that one of the two probes connecting my defibrillator to my heart – the probe in particular connecting the pacemaker part of the defibrillator to my heart – well (in the physician’s terms)…it had disintegrated! It was no longer functional, and the alarm – for the past year, mind you! – was telling me that there was something wrong with my new fancy schmancy machine!

“I the Lord test the heart…”

The surgeon’s office disconnected the alarm. Then I met with the surgeon himself who said, “we have a choice, and I think we’re making the right choice – although we’ll know pretty soon whether or not it is the right one.” Now THAT was comforting! He decided to “jack up” the usage of the defibrillator. Then, in two years when the defibrillator’s battery needs to be changed (“you mean, it’s not permanent?”), we’ll decide whether or not the second probe (“wire”) is needed.”

“I test the mind. Even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.”

Isn’t it amazing that the Lord in His wisdom uses “the heart” as an illustration of how HE operates? Now for sure, “the heart” in Scripture is rarely a physical organ. It refers more to the inner emotions, the guiding directive between man and his Creator.

So Brother Grant, thanks for sharing! It is a pleasure to be a member of the “Staring Up At The Ceiling In The Hospital” Club.

For it is in that stare where the Good Lord knows He has His child where he can hear His tender voice.

For the child has no where else to go!

THE PACEMAKER

Week Twenty-One, 2022

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

It was a dumb thing to do, but I did it anyway. For more than a week I had felt, tired, dizzy and light-headed.

My bride told me to go to the doctor, but I didn’t have the time in my schedule (first dumb thing). Then, a week went by and I was in my office and the office started spinning around and I thought I was going to pass out. I knew I needed medical help, so I did my second dumb thing. I drove to the Urgent Care facility. They took me right in and said my blood pressure was 180 and my heart was missing beats. They wouldn’t let me drive and dispatched me directly to the emergency room.

For three days I was prodded, poked, photographed and otherwise submitted to unpleasantries. Finally, my cardiologist reported that my heart was in good shape, but he was calling in “the electrician.” The “what” I asked, and he told me I was going to get a pacemaker to regulate my heart. I did and I am home, and my heart is performing beautifully. My watch is no longer telling me that I have a slow heartbeat.

I am still learning about this marvelous device. Someone said it can be programed to open my garage door and turn on the TV when I walk into the room. I also heard that if I fall asleep in church, it will record the sermon and later that night if I can’t get to sleep that night, I can replay the sermon and see if it will put me to sleep again! But we will see.

Being in the hospital was a spiritual experience. I spent more time laying on my back than Michelangelo and when you are on your back, all you can do is look up and I did. I thought….. God, is this the beginning of the end? Is it a life changer? Then …. God, why did you let me survive this attack when others don’t?

For me it was a great time of spiritual revival and helped me get my priorities in order. It helped me realize what really is important in my life. I was too busy to get medical help and my procrastination could have been fatal. I asked myself …… Am I too busy with the matters of this world to spend time with God?

What is my mind fixed on? Conquering the next financial deal? My next vacation? The Bible tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Hebrews 12:2.

Do you need a heart attack to make you lie down and look up, focusing on the vertical rather than your horizontal matters? Think about it. Stop and pause the world around you and take time to look up.

***

SOMETIMES TRUE STORIES

Our churches are filled with many who have grown up in the church, attending Sunday School, attending church events, giving tithes and offerings, maybe even taking leadership roles. Yet, they have never accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. Have never asked Him into their hearts or lives. They attend but have not known Him as Lord, nor understood His mission and the hope, peace, grace, love and forgiveness that He brings. Marty Stubblefield

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Note these 5 things that the Scriptures can do for you:

1. The Bible shows you what is right.

Right is not determined by culture, custom, or human creed. An accepted popular practice is not necessarily right. And human legislation enacted by a government doesn’t make something right.

2. The Bible shows you what is wrong.

While the Bible is not a list of “thou shalt nots,” it does offer some specific warnings about what is wrong. Wrong attitudes, wrong actions, wrong associations do not change with the times. If God says it’s wrong, then it’s still wrong today.

3. The Bible helps you get right.

When we’re on the wrong path religiously, morally, or ethically, we need to get on the right path. The Bible, when properly applied, will direct you in the right way in every area of your life.

4. The Bible helps you stay right.

The Bible provides the inspiration, encouragement, and motivation to keep on keeping on. To stay the course. And remain faithful regardless of Satan’s carnal enticements.

5. And the Bible equips you for every righteous work.

What is righteous work in God’s eyes? The Bible defines it. Both collectively in His church. And individually in our personal lives. The Bible furnishes us with just what we need to be successful spiritually.

Make 2022 a year of Biblical renewal. Get into the Word. Read it. Study it. Meditate on it. Live it.

D. L. Moody was right when he proclaimed, “The Bible was not given for our information, but for our transformation.”

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman

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QUOTES YOU CAN USE

My soul belongs to the Lord and my body and my honor to my country. Oleksandr Usyk – Heavyweight champion after joining a Ukrainian defense battalion

If you don’t understand the resurrection, then your faith is meaningless. Cindy Heiberg

Mission is the reason the church exists. Max Wilkins

There are three billion people in the world who have never heard of Jesus and 57,000 die each day. Andy Ivey

Christians have the responsibility to go tell others about Jesus. Bishop Sharma Lewis

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others. Cicero

I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well. Alexander the Great

Our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion are more imperiled than at any time in American history. Jim Denison

The ladder of success is never crowded at the top. Napoleon Hill

Reason and judgment are the qualities of a leader. Tacticus

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. Milton Berle

If a man does his best, what else is there? George S. Patton

Anybody can run the first half of a race, but it takes a true competitor complete in the second half of the race. David Kempston