Archives for : December2016

2017 is almost here

Ready or Not … 2017
By David Bragg


Can you believe another year is almost in the books? Time marches relentlessly onward without asking for either our consent or approval. 2016 isn’t even cold yet . Nothing you and I can do will ever get that time back. With each passing day we creep closer towards time’s end. But, as always, with Jesus there is good news.

2017 will bring with it days of defeat and success.
2017 will bring with it both sadness and great joy.
2017 will bring days of suffering balanced with days of healing.
2017 will bring with it days of loss and others of enrichment.
For some 2017 will bring with it a day of finality.

But there will not be a single day in 2017 that you will have to encounter alone! We have One who can lift us up from defeat, comfort us in sadness and sustain us through suffering. There is One who can truly place momentary loss into eternal perspective. And not to be forgotten, we have each other, charged with the duty of sharing in life’s highs and lows (Romans 12:12-15) and with bearing “one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).
While we are powerless to keep time from sifting through our lives like sand through our fingers, we can do something about how we spend it. While much time will fall wasted at the feet of humanity, as a follower of Christ you can use your time to God’s glory and time will ultimately deposit you in His timeless glory.

– David Bragg

Abortion is still a sin

She may have been president. She may have become a scientist and discovered the cure to AIDS, or cancer, or arthritis.

We will never know.

She might have been “just a mom,” beloved by her husband, and vital in the shaping of the lives of her children. She might have made them productive, and honest, and Christian.

But we will never know.

She might have become a missionary, and helped to bring the Gospel to a land sunk in ignorance and sin. She might have educated little children, opening vistas to those in grinding poverty.

She might have, but we will never know.

She was brim-full of potential, beyond the imagination.

The sky was the limit for her! Within her genetical make-up was the potential for love, laughter and compassion in abundance. But this potential will remain forever unfulfilled, the promise never kept, for this child’s mother had “the right to choose.”

“Behold children are a heritage from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3, ESV).

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven”

(Matthew 19:14).

— by Stan Mitchell

God and family ties

EVERY DAY, CHRISTIANS distinguish themselves from the world by the choices they make…

 

The world turns from opportunities to come to God and goes back to family and idols (cf. Ruth 1:14-15.)  Often, with tears, men have rejected the truth of God and have turned away because of family ties, saying, “If I do what the Bible says, I will have to leave the religion of my parents and that would mean I am saying they are/were lost.  I just can’t do that.” 

 

The truth of the matter is that one’s acceptance or rejection of God’s Word has no bearing upon the fate of his departed loved ones. 

 

Others refuse opportunities and turn away from God, again, with tears, because some idol god has their hearts.  What if Orpah had chosen to go with Naomi as Ruth did?  Bobby Liddell

 

But Ruth said:  “Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.  Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried.  The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.”  Ruth 1:16-17

–Mike Benson

Don’t be wasting our resources, or you’ll pay.


“Idlers Will Be Charged”

The age of electric cars is now here.  What once seemed a fantasy has become reality, and that reality is growing rapidly.  And we’re not talking about hybrid cars, in which sometimes the car runs on electricity and sometimes on gasoline.  No, these cars are fully electric with never a need to stop at the gas station.

Still, these electric vehicles (e.g. the Nissan Leaf, the Chevy Bolt, and all Tesla models) have to be “fueled”.  That fueling is accomplished by charging stations.  The driver pulls up to the charger, plugs in, and waits for the batteries to recharge a sufficient amount to complete the journey.  That “sufficient” amount of time varies greatly among vehicles.

Tesla, a newcomer to automakers, released its first all-electric vehicle in 2008.  Since then the company has gained attention and customers, but at a high price.  With a new model set to launch in 2017 which will be priced in the $35,000 range, more Teslas will be hitting the chargers.  To prepare for the surge in demand, Tesla announced this week that vehicles which remain plugged in after reaching full charge will be assessed a 40-cents-per-minute idling fee.  Others will be waiting in line to plug in.

Tesla, which has previously offered free charging to its customers, is sending a clear message: Don’t be wasting our resources, or you’ll pay.  (Who can blame them?)

Jesus once told a parable about one who was idling.  In this parable the main character wasn’t a person but a fig tree: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.  Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard … ‘Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?'” (Luke 13:6,7).

Jesus recognized a principle of agronomy: Plants will deplete the soil of its nutrients over time.  A wise farmer makes sure that the plants he grows are efficiently using the available nutrients.  If not, they will be removed.

A similar event is found in Matthew 21 where Jesus cursed a fig tree, causing it to die immediately (Matthew 21:18,19).  In that setting it is clear that Jesus has people in mind.  Those who don’t serve God as expected will one day pay dearly.

God saw the problem in Isaiah’s time: “The ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, My people do not consider” (Isaiah 1:3).

We live on this earth thanks to the grace of God.  We breathe His air; we drink the water He created and sustains; in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).  “He gives to all life, breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25).  We’re “using up” the nutrients God has provided.  What does He receive in return?  Are we idling?

Come to the light God offers!  Study His word, the Bible.  Worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24).  Get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss these ideas further.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Copyright, 2016, Timothy D. Hall

Live Or Die?

These posts should resume on or about 12/28.

In times past, it was much more difficult to be a Christian than it is today, well, at least in the United States.  In times past, and even today but in different nations, being a follower of Jesus could cost you your life.  But for those of us living in the United States, Christianity comes easy.  Because we live in such a permissive and pluralistic society, no one really cares what we believe and practice.  It’s all good.

Consequently, we find it easy to answer such hypothetical questions such as, “would you be willing to die for the Lord?”  We can quickly respond by saying, as did Peter, “Sure, I’d die for the Lord.”  However, because we probably will never be asked to do such a thing, it’s easy for us to say.  So let me challenge you with this thought…

If you can say that you’d be willing to die for Jesus, that’s wonderful.  But until you’re called upon to do so, would you at least be willing to live for him?  Give it some thought.

Steve Higginbotham

Three Keys for Deeper Bible Study

Without Scripture we wouldn’t know anything about God.

The Bible is greater than our minds can conceive. “Your word is a lamp to my feet, And a light to my path” (NKJV). Without it, we cannot be saved (Romans 10:17).

No one who aspires to heaven can give an acceptable answer to why they aren’t avid Bible students. We should be voracious in our appetite for truth. The following three keys will accelerate our journey.

First, be a devoted reader. All spiritual blessings are available to Christians (Ephesians 1:3). The more we read, the clearer God’s plan becomes (2 Timothy 3:16- 17). The deeper we go, the more passionate we are about our Savior. When read with love and gratitude, it becomes a blessing instead of a chore.

Second, be respectful and reverent. If we presuppose inspiration, extraordinary blessings will open before our eyes (Psalm 119:89). See God on every page. Notice the flow and rhythms of his teaching. Slow down and examine every word. The more meticulous our search, the greater our harvest will be in the end.

Third, focus on the threads of teaching. Scripture is not a random assemblage of books. It’s a coherent whole filled with threads and patterns. The New Testament is a continuation of the Old because that’s where the threads begin. The entire foundation of Scripture stands on seemingly small moments in the first few books of the Bible.

A study of baptism is incomplete without an examination of blood and water in Exodus and Leviticus (Exodus 24:6-8; 29:10-12; 40:12-16; Leviticus 4:1-7; 17:11).  The thread of the Church requires a study of the Ark (Genesis 6-9). A deeper study of the cross begins in Genesis 3:15 and Genesis 22:1-14.

In the New Testament, we dig deep into the concepts of light and darkness (John 8:12; 1 John 1:5), being in Christ (Ephesians 1; Galatians 3:27) and the spiritual versus the fleshly (Galatians 5:16-17).

When we follow these threads and dive into the endless well of theological implications, we should develop a love for heaven like we never imagined possible.

–by Richard Mansel

Many years ago there was a popular song entitled “Don’t Fence Me In.”

“I have hated those who regard useless

idols; but I trust in the Lord. I will be

glad and rejoice in your mercy, for you have

considered my trouble; you have known my

soul in adversities, and have not shut me up

into the hand of the enemy; you have set my

feet in a wide place” (Psalm 31:6-8 NKJV).

I sometimes find myself in South Asia during times of political tension. On one trip to Bangladesh it was almost time to leave the country when it looked like America was about to launch an attack upon an Islamic nation.

As events progressed, all I could think about was the possibility of being in a line of traffic waiting for a ferry with angry Muslims all around me and nowhere to go. Thankfully, that did not happen, but the possibility was very real.

Many years ago there was a popular song entitled “Don’t Fence Me In.” Those are our sentiments. We like space–room to maneuver, or to relax, or simply to spread out and be comfortable. Tight corners make us wary.

David was not fond of tight spots either. When God offered him choices of punishment for his sin of conducting a census of Israel (2 Samuel 24:10-17), he prayed, “Please let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of men” (Verse14).

The King knew that God’s grace allowed room for forgiveness; human enemies were not likely to be merciful.

Just as in the days of the Kingdom of Israel, so today also God provides us with room. He plants our feet in wide places.

These include the following:

God gives us space for a second chance. We all make mistakes, sometimes horrible in their nature and effect. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). On our record, we are worthy of condemnation and eternal torment (Romans 6:23).

But God is patient with us, “not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9). No better example of this patience is given than the life of Peter. He shamefully denied Jesus three times. Yet, Jesus later gave him the opportunity to confess him the same number of times (John 21:15-17).

Afterwards, he called him back into faithful service.  This same Peter became the featured speaker at the great occasion of Pentecost a few days later in Jerusalem (Acts 2:14ff).

God gives us room for individual choices and preferences. Yes, there are many commands and doctrines taught in the Bible which must be believed and obeyed in specific detail. But some matters of lifestyle may be chosen. For example, one may choose to marry, or to remain single (1 Corinthians 7:1-9).

Though all are called into service by God, one may choose various forms of ministry (1 Corinthians 3:6; 1 Timothy 3:1). Food may be selected based on one’s circumstances or preferences (1 Corinthians 10:25-33).

God gives us space to include others (Ephesians 2:11- 13). So often we feel isolated in our problems or mistakes. We feel unworthy, so also unloved, rejected, or unwanted. But God loves us anyway, and so do his people.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ reconciles us with former enemies, drawing us all together into him (Verses 14- 18). None are alone. We are a part of a “great crowd” (Hebrews 12:1) of spiritual encouragement and fellowship.

There is room in God’s love and mercy for all who would believe in and call upon the name of Jesus (Romans 10:13).

God sets our feet in wide places. Let us not be afraid.

— by Michael E. Brooks

A most unusual Bible verse

Ever notice and carefully consider Ps. 139:17-18?

How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them!  18 If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.

Here is a paraphrase of these two verses (emphasis added):

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.  They cannot be numbered!  18 I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!  And when I wake up, you are still with me!
–New Living Translation

GREATER THAN GOD

There’s a popular riddle that you may have already seen, but if you haven’t, I think you’ll enjoy it.  It is said that when asked this riddle, 80% of kindergarten students got the answer, compared to 17% of Stanford university seniors.  Here’s the riddle:

 

What is greater than God, more evil than the devil, the poor have it, the rich want it, and if you eat it, you’ll die?

 

What is it??

 

Think about it and then scroll down for the answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The answer is “nothing”.  Nothing is greater than God, nothing is more evil than the devil, the poor have nothing, the rich want nothing (I would disagree, but we’ll move on), and if you eat nothing you will die!

 

It seems so obvious.  Maybe that’s why younger children have an easier time answering it than educated adults.  As we get more educated and more sophisticated, we look for deeper answers.  But no matter how much we learn, the question, “What is greater than God?” (and anything else attached to it) will always have the same answer — “Nothing!”

 

“I will remember the works of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.  I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds. Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; Who is so great a God as our God? You are the God who does wonders…” (Psalm 77:11-14a).

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Lesbians seek church-building ceremony

On June 26, 2015, in the Obergefell vs. Hodges case, the United States Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages were a constitutional right. Eighteen days later, on July 14, our church secretary was visibly shaken when I came in the office. She had just ended a call with a lesbian asking if our church building would be available in October for their ceremony. That certainly didn’t take long.

In this instance, it was not an activist looking to pick a fight. In fact, the caller did not even identify herself as a lesbian. However, perhaps by coincidence, our secretary recognized the name and number revealed on Caller ID. The young woman on the other end of the line was our secretary’s neighbor from three houses down. Her partner had once been a member of our congregation as a teenager and had been a close friend to one of our secretary’s daughters. So our secretary knew the domestic situation.

Essentially, we side-stepped the matter. The date the couple wanted was already booked. The caller thanked our secretary and said that they were calling around to various venues to see what was available. If they discovered they had to change their date they might call back.

Upon hanging up the phone our secretary immediately emailed all our elders seeking for guidance in how to handle the situation should the couple call back in the days ahead.

Our eldership had already been in the processes of revising our building use policy as well as our bylaws. Yet this is a spiritual matter as well as a legal matter, so the call generated quite a bit of discussion among our elders.

On the spiritual side, we need to recognize that not every gay couple that might seek to use our facilities is looking for a fight, though all it takes is one.

My maternal uncle lived the homosexual lifestyle up until his death. Yet he never took an activist approach and didn’t parade his lifestyle before the family. So we should not be hasty in assuming the worst when we receive such a call.

Instead, our response should be measured.  The gay person is created in the image of God just as is the straight person, and the gay person is someone for whom Jesus died as is the straight person.  The practicing homosexual will not be assigned a deeper, hotter level of hell than the practicing thief, liar, adulterer, drunkard, pornographer, or divisive person.  “It is the sick who need a physician.”  So we need to communicate our stance in a way that stands for God’s truth on moral issues while also breathing God’s grace to the sinner.

On the practical and legal side, there are several considerations. One thought was to immediately change our building-use policy to restrict it to members and their immediate family. This would not work as we have at least three member families with immediate relatives who have expressed that they are gay or born the “wrong” gender.  Likely, there are a few more such member families who have just not disclosed this delicate family matter to others.  So a building-use policy that limits access to “members and their immediate relatives” would not permit us to avoid the request of gay couples to use the building. Further, the more we restrict the use of facilities to just members, it renders hollow the claim that the building is a tool to serve the community and reach the lost.

Our facilities are private property.  If we have not publicly promoted the availability of our facility and staff for such services as weddings, funerals, etc., we are not obligated to let whoever wants to (regardless of the situation) use the building or contract with our staff.  We can say no to whomever we wish without having to justify the answer.  We are, for now, a different sort of animal, legally, than a cake-decorating or wedding-photography business. In our state of Missouri, “sexual orientation” has not yet been added to the state’s basic non-discrimination law, the Missouri Human Rights Act, but that change will unquestionably be coming. Even so, it will be a while before the freedom of religion clause is restricted.

One of our elders is a civil law attorney. He drafted the following building use policy and section of our by-laws pertaining to our stance on same-sex marriages.

Building Use Policy: We acknowledge the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Obergefell case that expanded the definition of (civil) marriage to include “same sex marriages.”

However, as God’s representatives on Earth, we are responsible for teaching and behaving in ways that are approved by God and rejecting thoughts and behaviors that God condemns (including engaging in sexual activity outside a one-man/one-woman, God-joined marriage). Thus, we will not make our facilities available for use in same-sex ceremonies for two reasons: First, we believe we would violate God’s teaching on this subject; and second, because to do so will cause the community to think we approve of these types of relationships when we in fact believe they violate God’s law.

By-laws:  2.7. Marriage. 2.7.1. In the Beginning. God created marriage “in the beginning” (Matthew 19:4-5) and he alone has authority to define what constitutes a valid marriage (see, for example, Matthew 5:31-32 where Jesus defines some “marriages” as adulterous with the implication that those “marriages” are not recognized by him). The marriage that God pronounced “very good” is one in which he joins one man and one woman (Genesis 1:31).

2.7.2 Our Position. Sexual activity outside a one-man/one-woman marriage is fornication or adultery (Hebrews 13:4). Unless repented of, fornication (sexual activity between persons not in a marriage created by God’s joining) and adultery (sexual activity between persons, at least one of which has been joined by God in marriage to another) will cause the sinner to spend eternity separated from God (Matthew 15:19-20; Revelation 21:8). Thus, we do not accept as Members any person engaged in pre-marital sexual activity or any person who is in a “marriage” not joined by God, (such as a so-called “same sex marriage”).

LIBERTY, Mo. (BNC) by Stephen Lord

Quick! Do a calculation for me!

Count how many years you have been a Christian. Start with your current age, and subtract the age you were when you became a Christian.

You won’t have to tell anybody, just do this for your own edification. Currently I am fifty-five years old and was baptized at twelve. I have been a Christian, then, for forty-three years.

We would expect a forty-three year-old man to be reasonably mature. We would expect him to have a productive job, to contribute to society, and no doubt to be looking after a family.

So how are you doing? Could we have a little fun and assign some expectations for Christians by age?

A five-year-old Christian, while not completely independent, has chores and responsibilities. He should be able to feed and dress himself, and to be learning how to read and write.

A ten-year-old should be more mature. He might be holding down a newspaper delivery job or mowing lawns. A twenty-year-old Christian is either in college receiving higher education, or has a full-time job.

Well, you get the idea.

The Bible says that God expects us to grow spiritually: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18, ESV).

It is unnatural to be a Christian for a prolonged period of time and not be taking on the responsibilities of a mature, adult Christian.

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the basic principles of the oracles of God” (Hebrews 5:12).

Two year-olds throw temper tantrums, demand their way, or say angry, hurtful things to others. They are also dependent on others for almost every aspect of their survival. Forty–year-olds should be mature and responsible. They are not a drain on a congregation’s resources, they contribute to them.

I am not suggesting that everyone must preach or teach a Bible class. I am suggesting that everyone who is a mature Christian makes a positive contribution to a congregation’s health and well-being. If you are a mature Christian, ask yourself these questions:

* What is my role in the church? If I don’t have one, when should I volunteer to have one?

* When I see a congregational weakness, do I complain about it or do I fill in the gaps and meet those needs? Am I a drain on the congregation, or do I add to its programs, its ability to carry out its mission?

* Do I generally get along with brethren, or am I continually at odds with others?

* Do I make people around me better, or do my words cause them to be bitter and cynical about my brethren?

It’s not easy to take this sort of introspection. But it is necessary sometimes. We all need improvement on the issue of Christian maturity, and we should never stop growing.

— by Stan Mitchell

Do we love the Lord more than we love our relatives?

“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs” (John 21:15). This is a good question for us to ask ourselves.

Do we love the Lord more than we love our relatives? If we do, we will not let them hinder us from obeying the Lord or worshipping Him. The Lord taught: “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32).

Do we love the Lord more than we love our money? If so, we will cheerfully and liberally support the Lord’s work. “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:6-7).

Do we love the Lord more than we love entertainment and pleasure? Indulging in pleasure at the expense of Christian living and serving God is sinful for these things have taken over God’s rightful place (cf. Luke 12:15-21). Sinful pleasure is always wrong. “But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth” (1 Tim. 5:6). “Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter” (James 5:5).

Do we love the Lord more than the praise of men? If so, we will be willing to obey God even if it means we must incur the rejection of men. Some Jewish leaders believed on Christ but would not confess him because they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:42-43).

The Lord must be the supreme object of our affection. We must be able to sing with meaning, “O How I Love Jesus!”

By Bob Winton

We seek happiness but we cannot find it because it is obscured by a lust for something new.

Materialism is defined as an “interest in and desire for money, possessions, etc, rather than spiritual or ethical values.”/1 More distinctly, “A tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values.”/2

This philosophy of life is destructive and insatiable.  It blinds us to what we have around us. It calls us to long for what is over the next hill. When we reach it, another hill rises in the distance and we just have to keep running.

Bertolt Brecht said, “What a miserable thing life is: you’re living in clover, only the clover isn’t good enough.”/3

We seek happiness but we cannot find it because it is obscured by a lust for something new. Fulfillment becomes an unobtainable dream. We hunger for what we cannot have because our worldview is tainted.

Materialism reigns in our lives and we cannot see the unhappiness that absorbs us. “Unhappiness and materialism are mutually reinforcing mechanisms.”/4 We run after that which we cannot catch. Accordingly, depression becomes a natural consequence.

Today’s parents exist in a whirlwind of activity and their children largely raise themselves. In order to keep their offspring’s anger and resentment at bay, parents try to fill the void with things. Hoping to appease their children, they keep buying in a relentless pursuit of absolution.

Yet, it cannot be done. It is another of Satan’s lies (John 8:44).

“Not surprisingly, kids who are overindulged

materially tend to have the worst

relationships with their parents. Money

can’t buy love, but it sure seems to finance

some serious familial discord.”/5

“In Born to Buy, one of the most

comprehensive analyses of consumerism in

kids, professor Juliet Schor explains that

the more kids buy into the commercial

culture, the more likely they are to suffer

from depression, anxiety, headaches, stomach

aches and boredom. Adolescents with more

materialistic values are more likely to

engage in risky behavior, such as smoking,

drinking and illegal drug use. They are more

likely to suffer personality disorders like

narcissism, separation anxiety, paranoia and

attention deficit disorder.”/6

The only answer is to renounce the Western obsession with materialism and seek a better way. God calls us to simplicity and a spiritual mindset that rises above this world and its trappings.

Money is not the answer to fulfillment because it takes our eyes off of God (Luke 12:16-21; Exodus 20:3).

We need to learn to discern between wants and needs and we must seek fulfillment in healthier venues.

“Now godliness with contentment is great

gain. For we brought nothing into this

world, and it is certain we can carry

nothing out. And having food and clothing,

with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy

6:6-8, NKJV).

In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus tells us that he will take care of us. The conflict comes when we are not satisfied with what he gives us. To resolve this conflict, we must learn to develop a spiritual mindset on wealth, as found in God’s Word (1 Timothy 6:10).

Like everything in our lives, money is to bring glory to God, not ourselves (Ephesians 3:20-21). From this perspective, everything else is easier to understand.

__________

1/ http://tinyurl.com/7v9tdf8

2/ http://tinyurl.com/c8yysjb

3/ http://tinyurl.com/3ckxrx

4/ http://tinyurl.com/bmc2daa

5/ http://tinyurl.com/76mxwhs

6/ Ibid.

 

— by Richard Mansel

A king was hosting a wedding celebration for his son.

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy, therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding'” (Matthew 22:8-9 NKJV).

We received the invitations to a wedding and reception in Bangladesh a few weeks before the events took place.

Each invitation included the initials “RSVP”, which we understood as the desire for our prompt confirmation or rejection of the invitation.

We in the United States view invitations to most events as opportunities, not obligations. The prospective guest is free to accept or decline. Yet, we also realize that there are some invitations that we cannot, or at least should not, reject. The wedding of a close family member is one example. A presidential summons or Royal invitation would be another.

Once the invitation is received, however, there is usually at least the understood need to respond as to whether or not one plans to attend. And once committed to attendance, the obligation increases. Only true emergencies should prevent one from going.

Most of us have been on both sides of this issue. We have been invited to events that we greatly anticipated as well as those we would just as soon not attend. We have also planned and hosted events where we had to choose just who and how many would be invited. Just as there are those events which one must attend, so there are those guests whom one must invite.

That is the basic social background of the parable that Jesus told in Matthew 22.  A king was hosting a wedding celebration for his son. Invitations were sent out.  Given his status, there was great obligation on both sides. Nobles and other important persons in the area would expect to be invited. The king would have expected all who were invited to attend with pleasure.

But that is not what happened. His subjects rejected his invitation with contempt and mistreated those whom he sent to bear it. How did the king respond?

“But when the king heard about it he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city” (Matthew 22:7).

The secondary result of their refusal was that the king then opened the invitation to include those who would not have expected to receive it. The wedding hall was filled with those who came, “both bad and good” (V 10).

It is clear that Jesus used this parable to rebuke the religious leaders of his day for their rejection of him as God’s chosen Messiah. Later, in the evangelistic efforts of the early Church, we see that it also foretold of the inclusion of the Gentiles into the kingdom which he would establish. Paul would describe this process as the pruning of the branches of a wild olive tree and their replacement with grafted in branches from a cultivated variety (Romans 11:16-20).

It was the rejection of God’s message by the Jews that later, somehow, allowed the inclusion of the rest of the world. We may not always understand just how that fits into God’s eternal purpose, but we can understand the lesson and warning contained in it.

God’s invitation is precious. It is also urgent. Those who refuse it do so at their own peril. Willful sinners are described by one inspired writer as having “trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace” (Hebrews 10:29).

One can hardly read those words without being reminded of the angry king whose invitation was spurned. Let us not make that same mistake.

by Michael E. Brooks

Death by the electric chair in 1938

Lots of lessons in the following which you may draw out on your own.

Friday, Aug. 19, 1938

Dear Ones,

I do not feel well this morning, though I am not sick. It is about 6:30 and I have only slept a few minutes – did not sleep a wink until break of day, I was nervous because of what I had seen and witnessed. You know I am not excitable, yet I witnessed the saddest scene of my life just after midnight.

I am staying about a mile from Kilby Prison, and noticed yesterday that two boys were to be electrocuted there about midnight. I decided I wanted to witness that scene, so I called Dr. Camp, and then the warden, and finally got permission for myself and Bro. Leonard Johnson to see it. I preached to a fine audience, then we had supper about 9:30, and arrived at the prison about eleven o’clock. The guard at the great iron gate at the entrance of a massive building which appears to cover several acres, opened and we were locked inside.

We waited in the broad open space of a large and beautiful hall for awhile, and were finally seated in the warden’s office by a kind-hearted and friendly guard, who informed us the warden would be in after a while. We were already in a serious strain of conversation, talking of the joy of being free and able to go where we pleased in life, when we suddenly thought that we were in fact right then locked in prison! We still felt that we were free men, however, but were sorry for the more than fifteen-hundred white men inside that prison – to say nothing of the negroes.  We planned to try to warn more earnestly of the wages of sin, the thing which took away the liberty and freedom of those inside.

Many big burly guards are walking in the hall with guns. We are now out in the hall with them to see what they are talking about. Now it is about 30 minutes until twelve, and the assistant warden is motioning to me to come to him behind another great iron gate down the spacious hall leading west, I believe. Others precede us, and turn through a door to the left, but not being preachers they were searched – even some of the guards had their guns taken. But we were trusties, and hence not searched not then, nor later. Now we are being admitted through the gate and are passing toward another one about 50 yards ahead. Now we are passing through it, and are turning to the right. Here we go up a flight of stairs to one of the many stories of the great building.

Now we are in the death territory. Several doomed to die in the near future are on either side of us. The hall is about 25 by 40 feet. We are now stopped and the assistant warden motions for a preacher of the Salvation Army, and the white chaplain, and also the old negro who is [the] colored chaplain. We are introduced and are carried by them to the north end of this hall to the last cell on the left where one of the boys doomed to die in a few minutes is knelt by his cot praying. He has assaulted a ten-year-old girl in Birmingham, and must soon pay with his life. We do not want to disturb him, so we pass into a narrow hall, still north, but only a few feet away, and on the right is the other boy, who murdered a Montgomery merchant with an ax for only a few dollars of money on his person, He, too, must pay with his life.

Now we are at his cell and are looking through the strong lattice door. He is pacing back and forth, singing (or chanting) over and over: “I have a little sister gone on, and I was left alone, and now I’m going home. I have made peace with Jesus. He says, ‘I go to prepare, and I will come after you.’ He died for me and I’m so glad.” The Salvation Army preacher is now asking him how he feels, and he is claiming to be ready. But he is asking who we (Brother Johnson and I) are, and upon learning, wants us to pray for him. The short prayer over, we go back to the other boy, who is now sitting flat on the floor. Upon rising, he is told by the Salvation Army preacher to repeat the prayer: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner, and save my poor soul,” which he has now repeated. He picks up a little ten-cent Testament from his cot, and says: “If it was not for this little book, I’d be ruined.” 

 They are told to pray hard, for they have only a few more minutes. They saunter around and around, praying and chanting in a half-conscious manner, not noticing anyone. Now the other one wants Bro. Johnson to pray for him. This prayer also was very short, and when it is over, they want us to sing.  “Sweet By and By” is the first song, then “Nearer, My God, To Thee,” and then “Love Lifted Me.”

There comes a great company of men – guards, doctors, news reporters, and others. We move on down the narrow hallway with them, past the electric chair, where we hope to see clearly. We are now by the door, just in the hall, and within ten or twelve feet of the death chair. Being the taller of the two, I am looking over Bro. Johnson’s shoulder.  We are sad, occasionally feeling sort of mean for being there, then we remember that we helped sing, etc, and tried to send comfort to the doomed couple, for whom we are very sorry, regardless of their guilt.

There they are with the murderer. He is being strapped hard and tight to the great wooden chair.  All are as silent as death. Now the boy is saying: “I killed a man, and must pay for my deed. I love everybody, and now I’m going home,” (They are strapping the cup on his head through which the lightning will run thru his body) …”I want to meet my Saviour. Mr. Warden, tell Eleanor hello for me.” All is ready and we are almost holding our breath. Bro. Johnson is crying, and I, being older, am choking back all I can. The chaplain reads: “In my Father’s house are.” And Oh – My – Ugh!  The current has come and he has suddenly been lifted by it just as high as the straps will let him rise. His neck veins are protruding out, and his hands are drawn as tight as a wrench. This continues for about a minute, then is turned off about the same length of time. But now it comes again! UP he rises again! Now the smoke is coming up from his head and from his legs!!  The burning flesh is making an awful scent. The sizzling and buzzing noise of the current is loud, and could be heard for city blocks. Now, it is off again, and the doctors go forward. They listen to his heart, but soon say, “He is dead.” The stretchers are just behind us, coming in for him, I have now moved to the other side of the door, and he is brought out.

In a moment everything is ready again, and the other boy – about 17 years of age is brought in. He, too, is walking glibly, and also has tearful eyes. As they are strapping him, he breaks the deathly silence, “The strap under my chin is too tight, Lord, have mercy on me! Tell everybody good-bye! Oh, Me!! Lord, Take me!!!! That strap is too tight!! Only another minute, and I’ll be long gone!! Just another moment! Lord, have mercy!!! But I must go!! I can’t stay!! I am ready to die for my fault! ” The colored chaplain begins to read, and the boy begins to repeat after him, “The Lord, The Lord is my Shepherd… I – I – I . . . . ”  But the buzz is on him, and he, too, rises up to die about as the other did. He is pronounced dead, all is over. “He has paid an awful price for assaulting a white girl, about ten,” said a man behind me, who broke the silence. But we are put forward, and are coming down. Some are laughing and talking, some crying; one, at least, choking, and thinking that he wished his boys could see this, and silently praying that they may be good and control the flesh, that they may not thus have to reap.

By now we are on our way home, saying very little. I now have found the key, and am opening the door; now about to go to bed. But I am not a bit sleepy. Now I am musing: “Well, I am a man, and can forget all this, and sleep soundly.” But, no! I am rolling and turning, and something is wrong. Maybe I’m too hot. I turn on the fan, but that’s not the trouble. I am tired, but not sleepy. As I close my eyes I can see but one thing, and that’s that chair!

The effort to sleep began about 12:35…Now it is two. I get up and read till 3:05 a.m., but no sleep will come. I can still see those boys when my eyes are closed. Now the chickens are crowing for day, and I pull the shades and slip away for about an hour. Then try and try to sleep, but can’t.  I read, then start on this letter. Breakfast is over, and I feel all right, but I may get very sleepy today. I know, without waiting to find the facts, that Bro. Johnson did not sleep a wink.

Pray for our dear children and for me. Let us be a model family, and do a great work.  God bless you every one. I must get ready to go to the radio station, then to dinner, to get back home as usual about  4 o’clock.

I love each of you lots,

(Signed) Gus

–Shared by Hugh Fulford, November 29, 2016

 

 

The Song (“Magnificent”) of Mary Luke 1:46-56

            This young virgin received the news from an angel of God that she would be the mother of the Son of God. With that news in her heart, she breaks out into a song. It is almost entirely quotations from the Old Testament.

 

MARY HAS THE PROPER PRIORITIES (1:46-47):

            One purpose of worship is exalting God – Acts 10:46. When people repent, they magnify the name of God (Acts 19:17). We can even magnify God through our lives – Philip. 1:20.

            Verse 47 parallels verse 46 – “my spirit has rejoiced” is the way in which “my soul exalts the Lord.”

 

REASONS FOR HER EXALTATION OF GOD (1.48-49):

            Verse 48 begins with the conjunction “for”, signaling the reasons for Mary’s praise. One reason is found in verse 48 – “He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;” for which she explains: “for behold, this time on all generations will count me blessed.”

Another reason Mary exalts God is found in verse 49: “for the Mighty One has done great things for me.” The expression “great things” is a phrase from the OT that referred especially to the exodus from Egypt – Deut. 10:21.

 

THE MERCY OF GOD AVAILABLE FOR ALL THE HUMBLE (1:50-53):

            In verse 50, Mary moves beyond herself. Perhaps she may not realize just what it meant for Jesus to be the “Savior” of the world but she knows this blessing on her is for other people as well.

            And notice what type of people experience the “mercy” of God. – “Toward those who fear him.”  God’s mercy is His faithfulness to His covenant with Israel.

 

THE FOUNDATION OF MARY’S CONFIDENCE (1.54-55):

            Mary associates her blessing with that of her people, Israel. “He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy…” How? Verse 55 – “As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.” So the promise to Abraham is being fulfilled now in the life of Mary. God keeps His promises.

 

            Let us embrace God’s will for our lives and live accordingly.

 

–Paul Holland