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“EXTRA ORDINARY”

Week Twenty-Five, 2021

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Mark 15:15

In a recent well publicized trial, when a juror mentioned that he prayed about his decisions in life, the judge asked if he prayed for divine guidance in making his decisions. The juror said he relied on the Holy Spirit to guide him. When the juror said yes, he was dismissed, the judge saying that jurors should decide on the evidence and not inspiration from a higher power.

After the defendant was found guilty, his attorney moved for a new trial, the court denied the motion saying that jurors should be “ordinary people.” Translated, that says that Christians are not ordinary people.

I served for twenty-one years in public office and voted thousands of times and always prayed for God’s guidance in the decisions I made. I guess that some consider the new norm that Christians are not ordinary people.

God revealed his Son to ordinary people like me who, upon experiencing the Christ Child, responded with praise to God and by sharing the good news.

Consider the parents of Jesus. From biblical accounts we gather that Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, is a man of humble origins. He is from the line of King David, but his trade as a carpenter doesn’t allow him to live in a palace or have a high status politically or socially. In today’s terms he is the equivalent of a construction worker.

Jesus’ mother, Mary, is also of humble origins. She too descends from King David, but the picture Scripture paints is of a young teenage girl with no special status.

A second group of individuals that are introduced to the Christ Child is the shepherds.. These men of extremely humble origins are considered to be some of the lowest of the low. They are physically isolated from others because their job requires them to be constantly in the fields with their flocks.

When it comes time to announce the birth of his Son, God the Father could have introduced him to kings and queens, to the religious leaders of the day, to the socially elite or to the economically elite. Instead, God chooses to introduce his Son to a lowly band of shepherds. Upon seeing the Christ Child, Luke records that the shepherds “spread the word concerning what had been them about this child”.

Christians are ordinary people charged with an unordinary calling. Are you like an ordinary shepherd ready and willing to spread the Word?

***

SOMETIMES TRUE STORIES

PRAY FOR ONE ANOTHER

Author: LINDA SIENKIEWICZ

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)

Praying for one another is the greatest gift we can give to our brothers and sisters in Christ and those God brings into our lives.

How many times have you had a friend or neighbor tell you about a challenge they are facing or just about their bad day?

Your first instinct might be to think of how you can help and offer your assistance to encourage them or lighten their burden. While there is nothing wrong with that, you have a much greater gift to offer that has more power and ability to help than anything you can physically do…Simply say, let me pray for you!! And, not later but now, in the moment!

It doesn’t have to be a long prayer. Just call out to God, who loves us and is waiting for us to call on Him.

When we pray for one another:

• God gives us boldness.

• He increases our love for Him and for one another.

• He rescues us, heals us, and humbles us.

• He gives us strength, lifts our burdens and uses us to lift other’s burdens.

• He spreads the Gospel.

• He answers our prayers.

Jesus never intended for us to live the Christian life alone. When we pray for one another, we lift each other up – to get through life – to get through difficulties – to get through temptation. We lift each other to the only source of real hope. We bring our burdens to God in prayer, trusting that God is good and in control of everything.

— o —

A Canadian preacher, Stephen Sheane, tells a story from two centuries ago about a military officer and his wife who were aboard a ship caught in a raging ocean storm. Seeing the frantic look in her eyes, the man tried unsuccessfully to allay her fears. Suddenly she grasped his sleeve and cried, “How can you be so calm?”

He stepped back a few feet and drew his sword. Pointing it at her heart, he asked, “Are you afraid of this?” Without hesitation, she answered, “Of course not!”

“Why not?” he inquired.

“Because it’s in your hand, and you love me too much to hurt me.”To this, he replied, “I know the One who holds the winds and the waters in the hollow of His hand, and He will surely care for us!”

***

QUOTES YOU CAN USE

Temporal excitements never last long. Dan Shock

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” MARK TWAIN

People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are they who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them. GEORGE BERNARD SHAW

In all your life, you’ve never experienced a love like the love God has for you. Dan Shock

Wherever you go, there you are. You can’t escape yourself. The Minimalist

Who knows what is best for us? We don’t know. Only God knows. Dan Shock

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

OLIVER GOLDSMITH

Seek His face, and you will find fulfillment of your deepest longings. Jesus Calling

When you come to Jesus, your search is over, for you have then discovered God. Dan Shock

There is no finer sensations in life that which comes with victory over one’s self. Go forward to a goal of inward achievement, brushing aside all your old internal enemies as you advance.” VASH YOUNG

Invite the Lord to inspect your life. Dan Shock

Bringing a child into our fallen world has always been an act of faith. Today is no exception. Jim Denison

“Joy of the Second Mile”

with apologies to D. James Kennedy

THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT – AND BEYOND !!!”

By Jeremy Stopford, Semi-Retired Pastor

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” (Matthew 5:38-42)

Wow! Well over 50 years ago, while living in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, my parents and I visited the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. No, not the big building on Federal Highway which seats almost 10 thousand – per service. Rather, the store-front building on Commercial Boulevard from which Dr. D. James Kennedy was hoping to establish a fundamental Bible believing ministry. God used Dr. Kennedy’s ministry and stick-to-it-iveness for the creation of this ministry directly from the grassroots.

All that to say this: years later he had a televised study on the “Sermon on the Mount”. I was so overcome by his insights to our text that I bought a paper copy and devoured it (spiritually speaking, of course!). Portions of this study today are from his astute observations.

The world has a way of compromising truth! Verse 38 is a prime example, where our Savior introduces the issue by saying, “You have heard that it was said…”. Well, WHO said it? In His day and age, that would be the Pharisees. The Savior wisely was teaching His disciples that there is a BOLD difference between the LETTER of the law and the SPIRIT of the law. The Pharisees were the police officers, as it were, of the LETTER of the law! If anyone crossed that line, they were guilty, violators, and the Pharisees had the authority to issue punishment. Of course, they added to the law! 613 more laws were written by their teachers to aid in the individual Jew being a “good Jew”.

Kind of like becoming a “good Christian” without following Jesus, eh?

In contrast, our Savior shows the SPIRIT or INTENT or even better yet, HIS PURPOSE of the law! He introduces that by saying, “but I tell you…”. In the presence of the Pharisees and the religious leaders of His day was the very AUTHOR of the law! He should know what the purposes were of each written law. He should know their INTENT, their SPIRIT, His PURPOSE!!!

The Pharisees had appointed themselves – the very epitome of the “self-appointed judges” of the law’s LETTER. They failed to realize that the SPIRIT/INTENT/PURPOSE of the law had at least 3 aims:

That injuries didn’t result in unjust revenge (e.g., death for an eye out);

That vengeance would not be taking lightly but seriously, so as to avoid it; and

That any system for just retribution, as described by the law, was to be decided by the JUDGES and not by individuals. The Pharisees had lost sight of that.

Note the Savior’s command in verse 39: “do NOT resist an evil person”. Dr. Kennedy notes that the injured Christian (AND he notes that he hopes he was injured “for the Word’s sake and not for his own sake) has 4 choices of response:

(1) He could return EVIL FOR GOOD. This is the devil’s response, which response has NO compassion.

(2) He could return EVIL FOR EVIL. This reminds me of at least two bumper stickers I’ve seen. “You step on me, I step on you.” And my FAVORITE OF ALL TIME: “You toucha my truck, I smasha your face.” Hmmm….

(3) He could return GOOD FOR GOOD. This is the human response.

(4) He could return GOOD FOR EVIL! This can only be done by the enablement of the Spirit of God!

Put in but 3 words, Jesus’ response is “RESIST NOT EVIL”!

“Resist” means “to set yourself in opposition to”. How is this seen in Scripture?

Acts 7:51: to those same religious authorities, while in the hearing of the Old Testament Scriptures concerning the coming of the Messiah, Stephen said, “You always RESIST THE HOLY SPIRIT as your fathers did, so do you.”

Romans 9:19: to those of Israel who have denied Jesus as the Messiah, Paul writes “You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has RESISTED HIS WILL?”

2 Timothy 3:8: to those in battle with the Scriptures, Paul writes, “Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also RESIST THE TRUTH: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith…”

Hebrews 12:4: to those striving for the faith, the author of Hebrews reminds them that they haven’t died yet, “You have not yet RESISTED UNTO BLOODSHED, striving against sin.”

“Evil” is often discussed in Scripture, and is especially described in the book of Proverbs:

Proverbs 1:33 – the Christian alarm system: “But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, WITHOUT FEAR OF EVIL.

Proverbs 15:3 – the Christian awareness: “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch ON THE EVIL and on the good.”

Proverbs 15:15 – the Christian appetite: “All the days of the afflicted are EVIL,

But he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.”

Proverbs 17:11, 13 – the Christian action: “AN EVIL MAN seeks only rebellion;

Therefore a cruel messenger will be sent against him…Whoever REWARDS EVIL FOR GOOD, EVIL WILL NOT DEPART from his house.”

In verses 39-42, there are several identities of the Word of God in combat. There is “injury to the body” (verse 39).

There is “injury to property” (verse 40). By the way, a “tunic” or “coat” in Jesus’ day was an undergarment. And a “cloak” is “the costly upper robe or mantle.” A poor man might have several underclothes for changing. However, he might have only one upper garment, which would have a double use. It would be for clothing by day and bed clothes by night.

There is “injury to freedom” (verse 41). Contrary to modern day times, any Jew of Jesus’ day knew immediately what the Savior was talking about!

When Cyrus the King of Persia was in power, he would press into service anyone needed to usher his decrees. This was his version of our present day postal system. And the farthest they would go would be…ONE MILE.

When Rome under Caesar took over the nation of Israel, he continued the same policy, but with a few changes. Not only would the Jew carry his “mail” [or “orders”]. He would also have the Jew carry “burdens” (or “packages”). It was an indignity for the Jew to be tapped by a Roman spear and be told, “carry my burden now, Jew.” He then would have to go one mile, only then to return from where he came.

The hearer with Jesus’ insight would fully understand: Jesus was saying, “Go TWO MILES! And when you’ve done THAT, return. And do it as if APPOINTED – “SPEARED” – BY GOD! And finally in verse 42, there was the identity of being “injured to pride.”

It is said in BUSINESS that there are 3 types of employees:

(1). Those that goof off;

(2). Those that do just what is required of them, fulfill duties, get paycheck, and don’t advance far; and

(3). Those that go beyond, are creative, and don’t see their job as a routine but enjoy their job.

It is said in MARRIAGE that there are 3 types of marriages!:

(1). Some don’t even do elemental duties of marriage life (they co-exist!);

(2). Some just do whaat is expected. They see marriage as having no excitement, just routine; and

(3). Some go into marriage doing more than expected or required, resulting in vitality and enthusiasm.

The THIRD points are those who have gone THE SECOND MILE in BUSINESS and in MARRIAGE.

Don’t simply resist the evil. Find the JOY OF THE SECOND MILE.

“You will never know when a Roman soldier puts his spear on your shoulder

to do a task which is contrary to your desires, to your direction…

When you are going to be “injured” for righteousness sake…

THEN you will find out what spiritual stuff you are made of.”

—-Dr. D. James Kennedy

HAVE YOU BEEN SPEARED BY JESUS LATELY?

MY INHERITANCE

Week Twenty-Four, 2021

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous. Proverbs 13:22

Genealogy can be fascinating, especially now with so much displayed online. I have been able to trace my family all the way back to Saxony in the ninth century. I have tracked them to France, to England and to Scotland. They were on the wrong political side and were forced to come to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1620’s.

Peter Grant and others went on establish the town of Berwick in the Colony of Maine. Peter Grant was my fourth great grandfather. In the public records I found his will. It gave his testimony to his faith in Jesus Christ and spelled out his Christian beliefs, which he passed along to those who would continue in his family in the years to come. That’s me and is my inheritance from him.

Just as I am an heir to Peter Grant, likewise I am an heir to Jesus because I am adopted into his family. In Romans 8:17 Paul says, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” According to this verse, we share in the sufferings of Christ now and will share in the glory of Christ later as His “co-heirs” or “joint-heirs.”

The term heirs of God emphasizes our relationship to God the Father. As His children, we have “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade… kept in heaven” (1 Peter 1:4). The Greek term translated “heirs” in Romans 8:17 refers to “those who receive their allotted possession by right of sonship.” In other words, because God has made us His children (see John 1:12), we have full rights to receive His inheritance. We are His beneficiaries.

While I am honored to be a son of a God-believing grandfather, I am more honored to be a child of God through adoption by His on Jesus. Being a co-heir with Christ means that we, as God’s adopted children, will share in the inheritance of Jesus. All that belongs to Jesus Christ will belong to us, the co-heirs, as well.

“You are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir” (Galatians 4:7). Think of all that means. Everything that God owns belongs to us as well because we belong to Him. Our eternal inheritance as co-heirs with Christ is the result of the amazing grace of God.

The musical play, Annie, contains a wonderful illustration of becoming an heir of God. When Annie moves from the orphanage to the Warbucks’ Mansion, it’s an incredible change for her. She leaves behind a spiteful, alcoholic caretaker and enters a relationship with a caring father. She goes from having no possessions to having a fortune at her disposal. The hard-knock life is overcome by the brightness of a sunny tomorrow. Seen from a Christian perspective, Annie pictures what being a co-heir with Christ means. “We share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory” (Romans 8:17).

No earthly inheritance could ever compare with our heavenly inheritance received by accepting Him as Lord and Savior and being an heir of Christ.

***

SOMETIMES TRUE STORIES

Thoughts to Live By:

All good friends were once strangers.

Big things often have small beginnings.

Lost time is never found again.

You’re worth more than you know.

I’m so very proud of you.

Don’t be busy; Instead, be productive.

Every problem has a creative solution.

With God all things are possible.

— o —

WARNING: Sugarcoating the Gospel may fill church, but it will not get people to Christ!

***

QUOTES YOU CAN USE

Political discourse fails to recognize that discussions on abortion ignore the fact that a new life is at stake in every decision that is made. Dwight Short

Tolerance and apathy are the last virtues of a dying society. Aristotle

You may pride yourself in your accomplishments or successes. But mark this, when you see a proud man, you see a man who has not yet encountered God. Dan Shock

What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” John Steinbeck

Our faith as a Christian is being eroded by our culture. Os Guinness

To be a Christian without prayer is like living without breathing. Michelle Tellone

Be defined by your destiny. Os Guinness

Do something for a month and you establish a short-term habit but do it for three months and you establish a long term habit. Ken Boa

We need to be defined by things above, not things below. Ken Boa

You can live by the world or you can live by the Word. Ken Boa

“I Swear!”

FROM THE SERIES,

“THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT – AND BEYOND !!!”

From Matthew 5:33-37

Jeremy Stopford, Semi-Retired Pastor

Bible Text: ”33 “ Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”Matthew 5:33-37

Have you ever heard someone say, “Well, I SWEAR!”. Often, those 3 little words are followed by a very much expletive NOT deleted. How do you respond? We who love the Lord Jesus as Savior should be interested in how – or even WHY – the Savior takes the time to deal with this subject!

FIRST, we must ask the question, BY WHAT STANDARD?

(With apologies to Brother Rushdoony – I’m not stealing his title! Nor apparently the title used in the 1980’s by our Southern Baptist brethren as they entered the fray for the sanctity of the authority of the Scriptures!).

The time of our Savior was filled with the words and “authority” of the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees. They were considered the religious leaders of the day. Their word – and interpretations of their word – were the supposed governor of all religious thought, teaching, and direction of both church and spiritual society. They had the self-imposed authority to enforce the Scriptures ALONG WITH the 613 laws that they added to the Bible. And yes, often those added laws carried more weight than the Scriptures themselves.

So what was God’s true standard of which Jesus reminded His hearers?

First, Deuteronomy 6:13: “You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name.”

And, Leviticus 19:1, 2, 12: “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy…And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.”

And what about OUR day? There is an international church which says, concerning marriage: “Marriage is God’s standard. We are against divorce. BUT if conditions warrant, we simply annul a marriage and say IT NEVER EXISTED.”

What did Jesus say? Later in Matthew’s gospel, Chapter 23:1-4, He addressed His attention directly to the scribes and the Pharisees:

“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. 4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”

And hence came the popular phrase, “DO AS THEY SAY, NOT AS THEY DO.”

Second, we must ask, BY WHAT SERIOUSNESS?

In verse 34, our Savior says “Swear not at all.” What is He NOT saying? Our Quaker friends refuse in court to “swear to tell the truth.” That becomes as legalistic as the Pharisees! Does it not create a form of “legislated holiness”? Why, can you not hear the old timers say, “Do not go to movies and you will be holy”?

Why, several Old Testament saints DID take oaths, and the Bible acknowledges those oaths as most honorable! Remember Jacob? He received an oath from Joseph that he was NOT to be buried in Egypt. By faith, Jacob trusted that God would one day honor His Word and the Israelites would go home to Israel. Jacob’s bones were to go with them!

Furthermore, remember David and Jonathan? They took an oath of each other, that the one of the two who survived would care for each others’ descendants. In truth, after Jonathan died, David would take care of Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth! IF you are ever looking for an unusual name to name your son, there you go! In fact, Mephibosheth would not only sit at David’s dinner table. He would also possess all the lands that King Saul once owned. All because of the honoring of an oath.

So what DOES Jesus mean here? He is saying: “DO NOT base your truth, your position, on the greatness of anything!” Rather, recognize the consequences. Legislated holiness is of the evil one, of the world system, which is in active opposition to that which is GOOD!

Our third question is, BY WHAT SANCTITY?

The Lord Jesus said that our conversation – our “communication” rather than our “manner of life” – should be “yes” or “no”. Clear as mud, right? That is, our communication should be truth from the heart because of our living and active relationship with the living God. We need to swear by an Object of divine significance!

Ephesians 4:30 says, “And do not GRIEVE the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

Note how the Apostle Paul introduced his section on Romans dealing specifically with the future of the nation of Israel:

“I tell the truth in Christ, I AM NOT LYING, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit…” (Romans 9:1)

Check out the Apostle James’ instruction, in James 3:14:

“But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, DO NOT boast and LIE AGAINST THE TRUTH.”

(For further examples, see also: 2 Cor. 11:31; Gal. 1:20; Col. 3:9; and2 Tim. 2:7).

TO CONCLUDE: “How do we point others to Christ?” could be the question that our Savior is asking in this passage. And He answers it in a way that is highly applicable to today! Do we win people to the Savior by showing them the rituals of our faith? OR to we win people to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus by showing them a changed life as a result of our relationship with the Savior?

Do we point people to rituals, or do we point people to the cross of Calvary?

What is your STANDARD?

What is your SERIOUSNESS?

What is your SANCTITY?

IS IT NOT THE LORD JESUS AND YOUR TRUST, YOUR REST,

IN HIS ETERNAL FAITHFULNESS?

Jesus said, “Come unto ME, all who are weary and heavy burdened,

And I WILL give you REST.” (Matthew 11:28)

WE CAN SWEAR BY THAT AUTHORITY!

“THE POINT”

WEEK TWENTY-THREE, 2021

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things (the thing) of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.”

Back in the days when I was flying airplanes, I always had a point … a point to land when the flight was over. It might be a thousand miles away or it might be right back where I started, but it was a point. I had a flight plan to get there. Sometimes I would have to make in-flight corrections to deviate around bad weather. Sometimes I had to compensate strong winds by flying a course slightly off course. But there was always the point.

When I go hunting, I have a point that often has a rack of horns on it. My point is to hit the animal. Sometimes I have to compensate for the drop of the bullet, depending on the distance traveled. Sometimes when the animal is running, I have to aim for where it is going to be when the bullet travels the distance. But there is always the point, a point of contact.

People go through life with points, not always good ones. They decide where they want to be and then figure out how to get there.

Unfortunately, many Christians miss the point of their faith. They come to church just to get their ticket punched and go on about their secular stiving for their secular points. They go about their schedules and the world’s demands. God gave us a beautiful life to be used wisely.

We should keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, taking time to pray, to dive into scriptures and to turn to Jesus continually throughout the day so that He can guide our steps. Keeping our eyes upon Jesus means turning away from a world that urges us to do more, be more and doesn’t want us to focus on Jesus, but on all the outwardly things. Every day we should surrender to God’s agenda and accept that His grace is sufficient enough.

In Exodus 3, Moses was doing something mundane, tending someone else’s flock, when he encountered the burning bush. At that point he made an intentional decision: “I will now turn aside,” he said. If he had been heading to a meeting with eyes glued to his smart phone, he might have missed that declaration of the divine in the ordinary, and thereby missed God’s call to him. When I keep looking for my burning bush, strain my divine lens of the ordinary, I find God turning my ordinary into extraordinary, declaring His divine each day and giving it His purpose.

What is your point?

***

SOMETIMES TRUE STORIES

If we are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13–14), why is our salt and light not doing more to season and enlighten our culture? Why, in fact, are churches and Christian institutions sometimes the problem more than the solution?

— o —

SIX WORDS TO ENCOURAGE AND SHARE

  • You are doing a great job.
  • This is your year to shine.
  • Don’t wait for opportunity. Create it.
  • What you do has greater impact than what you say.

— Stephen Covey

— o —

THOUGHTS TO LIVE BY

  • You got to nourish to flourish.
  • Every end is a new beginning.
  • Dreams don’t work unless you do.
  • Moments give birth to new memories.
  • Happiness is always an inside job.
  • Live like there is no tomorrow.
  • Fall seven times; stand up eight.
  • With great power comes great responsibility.

— o —

WARNING: Sugarcoating the Gospel may fill church, but it will not get people to Christ!

***

QUOTES YOU CAN USE

  • Much of the best work of the world has been done against seeming impossibilities.” DALE CARNEGIE
  • If you add anything to Jesus, you actually take away something from Jesus. Ken Whitten
  • We have to be careful where we focus our attention. Dan Shock
  • Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. HELEN KELLER
  • Sometimes, when God’s voice breaks through and He gives us a warning about something we are about to do, we say, “Thanks, Lord, but I don’t need any help there. I know what I’m doing.” The truth is, we don’t know what we are doing. And we do need His help.
  • The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26
  • A man never discloses his own character so clearly as when he describes another’s.
  • You set the table and God brings the people. Martha Moore
  • The only mistake is the one from which we learn nothing. Henry Ford
  • Life on earth is short, eternity somewhere is forever
  • “A man who fears suffering is already suffering from what he fears,” once observed the 16th century French statesman and author Michel de Montaigne.
  • Jesus is the bridge between God and man. Dan Shock
  • We shouldn’t judge people by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Are Adultery and Divorce Scriptural?”

Jeremy Stopford, Semi-Retired Pastor

“SERMON ON THE MOUNT – AND BEYOND !!!”

Sometimes we can make the Bible say anything we want it to. For example, “adultery” and “divorce” ARE in the Bible. But are they right? Do they please God? Did the Lord Jesus say anything about these vital, yet often divisive, subjects?

Read these words of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 5:27-32:

”27 “You have heard that it was said [a]to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 31 “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.

As strange as it sounds, this is a true story! In the early 1900’s in churches throughout the United States, preachers were concerned with a new fad among woman: the “top knot”. No, they were NOT [not “knot” – no pun intended!] the “man buns” of today. But the preachers were concerned that the world’s fashion was creeping rapidly into the church. One Sunday, one famous preacher took it upon himself to give the ultimate Biblical proof that the ideals of the world were not meant for the fundamental child of God. “The woman is not to be wearing the styles of the world, “ he boldly proclaimed. “Why, it says so right in the Bible, Matthew 24:17: “Let him which is on the houseTOP (K)NOT COME DOWN to take any thing out of his house.” Hmmm. I wonder if in 2021 he would have used that passage for the current “man bun” phase!

But to answer the lesson title, YES! Adultery and Divorce ARE in the Bible! But are they right? Are they scriptural? Do they please our Heavenly Father? Amazingly, it was important to our Savior to include in the Sermon on the Mount His insights on these most potentially divisive subjects. In our text, the Lord Jesus covers this topic giving several amazing and insightful points.

FIRST, SIN IS NOT AN ACTION BUT A NATURE (verse 27). For the Pharisees and other religious leaders of Jesus’ day, adultery was an outward act. Therefore they could proudly say of themselves – even before the Lord – “I’m not an adulterer. Therefore, I don’t sin.” But for the Lord Jesus, adultery is an outward sign of an inward heart, a human nature which is hungry TO sin! It is not so much that I DO a thing. Rather, it is what makes me do it, what urges me to do it, that matters.

The Bible makes several distinctions about sin. The unsaved – those who have never trusted the Lord Jesus as Savior – are sinners by nature and by choice. Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…”. Further, Romans 6:23 adds, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The saved have been freed from the penalty of sin, but they still have a nature which is in a battle between the Lordship of Christ and the dominion of that sin.

The Apostle Paul tells pointedly of his own spiritual struggles, as recorded in Romans 7:13: “Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.” Will this battle always be victorious for the enemy, or is the Savior strong enough [how dare I write so!] to overcome the enemy? Paul concludes, in verses 23-25a, “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

In Galatians 5:19, where the Apostle Paul lists what he has called the “sins of the flesh”, note the first one on the list: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery…”. Paul sees adultery as a work of the flesh which is in opposition to the operation of the Holy Spirit! Thankfully, the battle has a Victor in our Savior. Even John the Baptist wrote of Him in John 1:29, “…“Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Indeed, SIN IS A NATURE, and the Savior and the power of His death and shed blood “take away the sin of the world” for all who trust Him as Savior and Lord of their lives.

Is He YOUR trust? If you love Him as your Savior, do you trust Him as LORD of your life?

SECOND, SIN IS TREATED, NOT BY THE ACTIONS, BUT AT THE ROOTS (verses 28-30). In Matthew 15, the Lord Jesus has a confrontation once again with the religious leaders of His day. They were concerned that His disciples were not obeying not only the law but also one of the many 613 RULES that they had added to the law! In verse 8, He quotes from Isaiah 29:13, “‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” Quoting from a prophet that the Pharisees and other leaders respected, the Lord Jesus put them in their place. The Pharisees were condemning the disciples’ actions. Jesus’ – using their own Scriptures – condemned the root of their religiosity.

In the Sermon on the Mount, the Savior uses the illustration of the eye and the hand. They were created for good! They were designed by their Creator to be used to bring glory to Him. With His words – “pluck it out”, “cut it off”, “cast it from you” – He was not encouraging a gruesome self-surgical procedure. Rather, He was showing a phrase which Paul would use often through His epistles: “mortify”, “put to death”. An unknown author once wrote, “That which God has created for good must be placed on His altar.”

Paul wrote in Romans 8:13, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

One of his most famous verses is Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” And in Galatians 5:24, Paul goes on to say, “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

The outward battle is won by destroying the inward roots!

THIRD, HOLINESS IS NOT IDEALS BUT STANDARDS (verses 31-32). The same theme here is found in Mark 10:1-9. Once again, while the Savior is teaching, the Pharisees – who were SUPPOSED to be the religious leaders and thus God’s representatives of their day – questioned Jesus’ teaching. They tried to trap Him, asking Him, “is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”. The Savior did not go to any one of the Pharisees 613 EXTRA RULES. Rather, He went to creation! Verses 5-9 pointedly say:

“Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. 6 But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

God had given an allowance in the Old Testament, an allowance for the hardness of man’s heart. However, in the Old as well as New Testament times, God’s hunger is for marriage. That is His standard.

OUR CONCLUSION today is wrapped around the heart of our amazing Savior: ALL SIN FINDS ITS HOPE IN THE FINISHED WORK OF CHRIST! Here’s a tough question: are divorce and adultery forgivable? A situation is vividly described in the confrontation of the scribes, the Pharisees, the people, the Lord Jesus, and an helpless woman “caught in adultery” (John 8:1-12). The Pharisees wondered what the Lord was going to do to this one so “caught”. He wrote on the ground. What did He write?”, one would wisely ask. It is implied that He wrote with His finger! Why is that important? In Exodus 31:18, it is said of God, that He wrote the 10 Commandments on stone with His finger! Don’t you wonder if those watching Him understood the implication: what they were accusing this girl of, of that and more they all were guilty!

So ARE DIVORCE AND ADULTERY FORGIVEABLE? All sin finds its forgiveness in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus.

1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

The invitation is available to all.

The hope is available to all!

9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Romans 10:9-10

Is the Lord Jesus YOUR trust?

If you love Him as your Savior, do you trust Him as LORD of your life?

“To Kill or Not to Kill – is that a question?”

May 26, 2021

SERMON ON THE MOUNT – AND BEYOND !!!”

By Jeremy Stopford, Semi-Retired Pastor

From Matthew 5:17-26

The story is told about a snail who was in a horrible accident. How horrible was it? Well, he lost his shell! So he went home to recover. Several days later, a good friend stopped by. “I heard about your accident,” the friend said. “How do you feel?”

“Well,” said the snail, “to be honest I feel a little sluggish.”

Don’t you think that we occasionally feel a little sluggish in our appreciation and respect for, as well as the regular application of, the amazing love and grace of God for us?

The Sermon on the Mount, and in particular the verses which follow the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), have much to say about the practical application of the teachings of our Savior!

But PLEASE remember this: while the Lord Jesus IS a Great Teacher – He first of all is LORD OF ALL! His desire is not for us to be good students of the Word. His desire is for our WORSHIP of Him FIRST of all!

Into that scenario come the verses of today’s text,:

”Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one [b]jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”Matthew 5:17-26.

In this section, our Savior begins a vivid attack/counterattack with the false teachings of the religious leaders of the day. Those leaders were suffocating the grace of God with their rules and regulations!

Do BELIEVERS have rules and regulations that are suffocating? I once walked into the gym of a neighboring church. As one enters the gym there were written on the wall next to the door the “Twenty Rules for Gym Use”.

Ok, I get it. There should be rules for courtesy of our fellow gymnasts. But THESE rules were even more specific than that: what clothes to wear, what length of hair for boys, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. From the minute I walked into the gym after reading those rules, I felt I couldn’t breathe! I was fearful that I might intentionally or unintentionally break one of those 20 rules!

AND dear friends, that was how the religious leaders of Jesus’ day affected the populace of Israel!

It behooves us to see the Savior’s insights into a number of the leaders’ views on something as foundational to the state of the nation as murder. What is His heart?

FIRST, God’s view of murder and killing has never changed! Exodus 20:13, a part of the 10 Commandments, says, “Thou shalt not kill” [or “murder” in NKJV]. To kill means “to break or dash into pieces; to slay in a violent or unjust manner; to murder without cause”. The phrase “without cause” is a key! God never applied “killing” or “murder” to the slaying of brute beasts! Can you imagine what the Lord, much less Old Testament theologians, would have thought about today’s “animal rights” activists? He would have said that while the 10 commandments do NOT cover that, He would rather have a respect for all life. Furthermore, in Genesis 9:6, written well before the law, the Lord says,

“Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; For in the image

of God He made man.”

God takes a high view of ALL human life! So, for example, when you read in the paper about an airplane crash where there were no survivors, what is your first thought? It SHOULD be not only for the families of those victims, it should be this: “where are those victims now spending eternity? Were they ever under the hearing of the Word of God, and of the love of God in Christ? Did they ever receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior?” We need to have God’s view of people! People are eternal beings!

So since God’s view of murder and killing has not changed, even the Pharisees and other religious leaders of Jesus day should have been surprised when the Savior made a more practical application in Matthew 5:22:

“But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be

in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in

danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell

fire.”

Wow! So SECOND, God’s view of murder includes more than just a physical slaying! It is more than just the letter of the law! It involves causeless anger against a fellow human being.

The psalmist wrote in Psalm 97:10:

“You who love the Lord, hate evil!

He preserves the souls of His saints;

He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.”

Ephesians 4:26 directly quoted Psalm 4:4:

““Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath…”

Do you feel anger or rage, even against someone who has done nothing to you? The Lord Jesus is saying that that is equal in His sight to…MURDER.

What about “RACA”? “Raca” is the word for “worthless fellow, a senseless empty head”. If you were to call your brother that – apparently something that those of the religious right of the day felt free to do – Jesus says that you are guilty as if guilty of murder.

AND if you call someone “FOOL”, that in our Savior’s eyes (and heart!) is the utmost in human abuse. Consider again all the animal cruelty laws that are in the books. When I worked for the City of Norwich (NY) police department, I was authorized to enforce those laws. But here is the Lord’s “HUMAN CRUELTY LAW”! He said that if you call someone a “fool”, you are guilty of “hell fire”, or “Gehenna”. The citizen of Jesus’ day would know that He was equating the awfulness of the city dump – with its constant burnings and otherwise heinousness – as a human picture of an eternal truth. He was showing that it is possible for someone to be in danger of more than just man’s judgment. Someone can be guilty of God’s judgment: hell fire.

THIRD and last, there must be reconciliation. Verses 23-26 can be summed up well with His one pointed statement:

“Agree with your adversary quickly…”!!!

God’s view concerns outward relationships! There MUST be reconciliation, something the heart of man often overlooks. Think of this: God demands a reconciliation between man and Himself through the cross in order for a person to have fellowship with the eternal God. So it shouldn’t surprise us that God also wants reconciliation between man and man in order to have a relationship with one’s fellow man!

As we close our lesson for this week, please note a small word, only 7 letters.

QUICKLY! (v. 25)

Remember the account of that airplane crash? Life is full of the unexpected.

QUICKLY!

“Behold, NOW is the accepted time; behold, NOW is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2)

QUICKLY!

“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:20)

QUICKLY!

TOUCHING FIRST BASE

WEEK TWENTY-ONE, 2021

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

The 1924 baseball World Series between the Washington Senators and the New York Yankees remains legendary. It persists in the memories of a few fans and in the sands of time as one of the most exciting baseball championships in the history of the game.

It was the seventh game of the series. The Senators and the Yankees were tied, three games apiece. It was the bottom of the ninth inning. The first two batters struck out. As a pregnant pause reverberated throughout the stadium, the third and final batter approaches the plate. His team was down by one run. The pitcher released a fiery curve ball. Strike one! He repeated the pitch. Strike two! The pregnant pause became a deadening silence. Many in the crowd suspected that all has been lost. Then, the third pitch barreled toward the plate. Amazingly, the batter eyed it perfectly. His forceful swing sent the ball well on its way. The crowd erupted into pandemonium as they thought that he had hit a homerun.

But, the ball hits a pole and bounced backward into fair territory. Rather than a homerun, he had to settle for a triple. As the runner approaches third base, the outfielder threw the ball to the shortstop who in turn prepared to hurl it to home plate. Then, the third base coach directed the runner to steal home. So, the runner, hoping to win the game and series, ran and sled toward home with all of his might. In what seemed an eternity, the runner made it to home.

As the crowd exploded into sheer exuberance, the home plate umpire surprisingly called the runner out. Utter mayhem resulted as the crowd protested the call! Fearing a riot, the umpire convened a conference of all of the field umpires and himself. Finally, they reach a decision. The home plate umpire went to the mike to announce the determination. “The runner at home is called out because he failed to touch first base.”

Imagine that! The entire season and the World Series are lost due to a technicality. The runner in his excitement failed to touch first. Countless hours of practice, travel, and games were summarily nullified by a small yet very significant omission. However, that is also the case with the life of faith.

Jesus told Nicodemus that no one can enter the kingdom of heaven unless he is born again. It did not matter that Nicodemus was one of the teachers of the law. His knowledge of the law was not synonymous with a relationship with God. Even though Nicodemus, as a member of the Sanhedrin, was a keeper of the history, literature, and religion of Israel, he had missed first base because he failed to seek a vibrant and growing relationship with Almighty God.

In the Church we fool ourselves if we think we can rely upon ritual, tradition and sacraments alone. We, too, must ensure that we touch first base by being born again.

Do you just go to church or have you been born again?

***

SOMETIMES TRUE STORIES

For those who do not know the ABCs, they are as follows:

A – Admit you are a sinner and understand that we can never be “good enough” to please the Father.

B – Believe in your heart that Jesus died in our place to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins and have faith that God raised Jesus from the dead to conquer sin and death for all who will accept Him. This is the only sacrifice the Father could ever accept.

C – Call on Jesus to be your Savior, and confess you are a sinner in need of a Savior. Romans 10:13 is God’s absolute guarantee for all who will receive and accept His Son; “All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

— o —

Many today live solely to serve their own pleasure.

People haven’t changed. Living for the moment, they have become slaves to the passions of their flesh. If these people only knew where their chosen path would lead, I believe they’d choose another path. When Jesus called us to follow Him, He said, “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” That cannot be said concerning the yoke that comes upon the person who has chosen to live after his own flesh. Dan Shock

— o —

A man once asked Isidor Isaac Rabi, a Nobel prize winner in science, how he became a scientist. The Rabi replied that every day after school his mother would talk to him about his school day. She wasn’t so much interested in what he had learned that day, but she always inquired, “Did you ask a good question today?” Asking good questions, The Rabi said, “made me become a scientist.”

Asking good questions is important in life generally speaking, and even more important, spiritually speaking. The Bible raises many very important questions worthy of our consideration.

***

QUOTES YOU CAN USE

If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely. Roald Dahl

God doesn’t require that I do the very best, only my very best. Dan Shock

Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed – else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die. Dwight D. Eisenhower

Decision making, like coffee, needs a cooling process. George Washington

You cannot change the circumstances, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of. Jim Rohn

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. Mark Twain

Half-hearted commitment will never result in total victory. Dan Shock

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. Maya Angelou

I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.” Og Mandino

Fill your life with stories to tell, not stuff to show. The minimalist.

Never let go of what you do know, because of something you don’t know. Dan Shock

Always remember that the future comes one day at a time. DEAN ACHESON

Covid 19 and the UNEXPECTED Problems of Burial

I saw a bumper sticker on a car near Houston. It stated, “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as soon as I can.”

As a New York native, I can only agree with the sentiment of that bumper sticker, and though Texas has its challenges, it’s clear that the quality of leadership directly impacts the quality of life.

An email from an old an dear friend made me realize how blessed this 81-year old is that he wasn’t stuck in a nursing home in New York during the Pandemic, a nursing home for which the New York governor had responsibility.

My friend has been officiating over funerals in a small town in central New York. Here are his words:

All these people providentially went to their eternal reward during the winter.  Now remember that this is NY State.  We have LOTS of snow during the winter.  Cemeteries are CLOSED until the robins show up – usually not until May????

THIS YEAR, for example, one of the area funeral homes – mind you, small towns USA – had 80 deaths in November, with 40 of them from one nursing home (all 40 Covid-19 related!).  Then, December, January, February he had another 100 deaths.  He normally stores the “caskets” in the cemeteries’ vaults.  But by January they were FULL!  So, brace yourself, a local Catholic Church volunteered its “fellowship hall” to have the caskets stored in.  Can you imagine?

Keep in mind that many who died were cremated, and did not pose a “storage problem” to funeral homes. He went on:

I am thankful that it does give an opportunity to share the Good News to hearts that need true comfort.  Did you know that Psalm 23 makes no sense UNLESS you know the Good Shepherd as your Savior?

So throughout this month, I’ve had the joy (not you, sorry) of spending much time with families whose loved ones passed away during the winter.  And fortunately, some had professed faith in the Savior, but sadly most haven’t.  So the true comfort, true ministry, comes for those who remain.  [And they never tell me ahead of time:  “oh my mom Mable is dying – would you go visit her BEFORE she dies?”].  

So, we get a picture of the sorrow being experienced across America, including Texas, but especially New York State.

God grant that unbelievers will seek the Lord while it is yet day, for the night cometh when no man may work.

THE BOTCHED SURGERY

WEEK TWENTY, 2021

It was 1943 and the young lady lived happily in Greece with her family. She was a Jew. Her name was Garmaine……… Garmaine Pitchon.

One day there was a knock at her door and strangers told the family that they would be in danger if they remained in Greece, so they were being relocated to a place where they would be safe. They were told to board a train, where they were packed in unsanitary conditions for their long ride to their ultimate destination ….. Auschwitz.

Recently I had the privilege of walking those train tracks into the station where they were told to get off the train and were separated into groups. Within about ninety minutes most were forced to strip naked and sent into a giant shower, only there were no shower heads, only gas. With tears in my eyes, I have stood in the “shower” where more than a million Jews were gassed.

Of those who for various reasons were not gassed, they suffered tremendous atrocities. Garmaine had to watch her grandmother shot in the head before she went to Cell Block #10, where those chosen for medical experimentation were housed.

Carl Clauberg experimented with sterilization in the camp. Part of Block No. 10 was put at his disposal. Several hundred Jewish women in Block No 10 were used for his “medical” experiments. Clauberg developed a method of non-surgical sterilization that consisted of introducing into the female reproductive organs a specially prepared chemical irritant that produced sever inflammation. Within weeks, the fallopian tubes grew shut and were blocked. Clauberg’s experiments killed some of his subjects and others were put to death so that autopsies could be performed.

They were searching for a convenient means of mass sterilization that would enable the Third Reich to carry out the biological destruction of conquered nations by “scientific methods” by depriving people of their reproductive capacity.

Then it was Garmaine’s turn to present herself for sterilization. Once on the table, the German doctor made an incision and removed one of her ovaries. As he was about to do the other, there was suddenly an Allied air attack and the doctor ran for personal protection. A Jewish doctor, also a prisoner who was shortly later exterminated was forced to assist in the medical procedures. Before leaving, the German doctor commanded the Jewish doctor to finish the procedure on Garmaine.

As he began to do so, he leaned over and whispered to Garmaine, telling her that he had to make an incision to look like he had done the procedure, but he stopped short of any removal. He told Garmaine to do two things, first to disguise any monthly evidence that would show she was not sterilized and secondly he said “When you have your first baby, think of me.” That first baby is my now close friend Sol Pitchon, who came to America and surrendered his life to Christ and dedicated his life to saving babies, as he believed God had saved him “for such a time as this.”

Working in crisis pregnancy centers for the past nearly 25 years, Sol has saved the lives of more than ten thousand babies who would otherwise have been aborted and he continues to do so.

That’s why God saved the life and reproduction ability of Garmaine so Sol would be born to her and save the lives of so many others!

The ultimate way God turns what was meant for evil into good is through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sin does not glorify God. But God uses sin for his glory by saving us from sin. … Therefore when we allow God’s grace to redeem us from our sins, God is turning what was meant for evil into good.

Thank you God. Thank you Sol.

***

SOMETIMES TRUE STORIES

COVETNESS:

The only thing we should covet is a closer relationship with God. The Bible tells us that covetousness is idolatry. That’s because the thing you desire becomes the central focus of your heart and mind. All your waking hours are spent scheming ways to get that thing for yourself.

The Bible says we are to covet just one thing. “But covet earnestly the best gifts (of the Spirit)” (1 Corinthians 12:31 KJV). The only thing we should covet is a closer relationship with God. If you are going to crave anything at all, crave the power of God’s Spirit working freely and fully in your life.

— o —

Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it. It requires a conscious decision because it is a countercultural lifestyle that stands against the culture of overconsumption that surrounds us.

The world we live in is not friendly to the pursuit of minimalism. Its tendencies and relentless advertising campaigns call us to acquire more, better, faster, and newer. The journey of finding simplicity requires consistent inspiration.

For that reason, I hope you will make an effort this weekend to find a quiet moment with a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy some of these hand-picked articles to encourage more simplicity in your life.

— The Minimalist

— o —

Pixar Animation Studios has become perhaps the most preeminent name in children’s entertainment. They have been a mainstay at the Oscars for more than two decades and, this year, developed two of the five movies nominated for Best Animated Feature Film. Soul took home the award, becoming the eleventh such Pixar property to do so.

The success of their recent offerings is not the only reason they are in the news today, however.

Last week, word began to circulate that they were looking to cast someone to voice the character Jess in an upcoming project. Jess is described as someone who is “compassionate, funny, and always has your back.” They are looking to for a 12–17-year-old who is “enthusiastic, outgoing, funny, and energetic” who also feels “comfortable acting in front of a microphone” and can “authentically portray a 14-year-old transgender girl.”

If that last part caught you by surprise, that’s kind of the point.

—Ryan Denison

***

QUOTES YOU CAN USE

Following after emptiness only makes you empty. – Dan Shock

If you want to fly, you have to give up everything that weighs you down. – Toni Morrison

The circumstances you face aren’t nearly important as the conclusions you draw. – Pastor Ken Whitten

No work we undertake will be of any value, unless the Lord is with us. – Dan Shock

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Giving to the Lord should be the greatest joy and the greatest happiness that you know. Anything I offer to God must come from a willing heart if it’s to have any value.

There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self. – Aldous Huxley

If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools. – Plato

St. Augustine noted, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.

EVERYTHING IS TRAINING FOR SOMETHING. – Men of Iron

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all. – Emily Dickinson

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship. – Louisa May Alcott